Love and I am Loved
Written by Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by Loren Long
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018
ISBN # 978-1-5247-4091-7
Love is present in the most subtle, yet remarkable ways in this utterly moving picturebook by Newbery Award winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long. From the melodies on a taxicab radio to the soft sounds of nature to the wrinkles on a family member’s face, love is everywhere to be heard, tasted, smelled, felt, and seen. Love isn’t explained or defined; it is sensed deeply and understood intensely. de la Peña unequivocally, though no less lyrically, demonstrates how love is also present during the most difficult of times, especially when tragedies occur. And where the text opens the door for interpretation, Long’s muted mixed media illustrations illuminate some examples with equal sentiment and compassion, including a spread of racially diverse people. Evoking strong emotions and rich conversations, this tender book offers readers the conviction that love is there for all of us to accept and give.
I am Loved
Written by Nikki Giovanni
Illustrated by Ashley Bryan
Published by Dlouhy/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018
The award-winning team of poet Nikki Giovanni and illustrator Ashley Bryan offer a collection of poetry that celebrates what it means to love and be loved. In this volume, love is communicated through actions, nature, objects, gestures, and expressions. The collection of Giovanni’s verse includes both new and familiar poems, varying in tone and content—and most without the use of the actual word—but all with an affirmative understanding of love. Bryan’s signature illustration style, full of bold strokes and vibrant color, promotes the upbeat message throughout the book. And while Giovanni’s elegant poems speak across generations and cultures, sometimes explicitly drawing upon events in African American histories as reference, Bryan’s illustrations purposefully emphasize the sentiment around black and brown children. Perfect for all manner of classroom use, I am Loved is a heartwarming reflection of love in all respects.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
- Books about Love. There is a plethora of books for children that attempt to teach them what love is. With the help of your school or local librarian or local bookstore, gather a selection of these books to share with your students. After reading them, either as a class or in small groups, have students think more critically about the content of each book. How does each explain what love is (e.g., with examples, with description, with explicit definition, etc.)? What kinds of love are included in the book? Which ones offer a simplistic portrayal of love, and which ones offer a more complex understanding of it? Which book(s) would they say most accurately communicates their own, current personal understanding about what love is? Set up a class bulletin board or website that showcases students’ choices and understandings.
- Love is _____. Lin-Manuel Miranda famously said during his 2016 Tony Award acceptance speech that “love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.” What does that mean to your students? Using either of these books as a mentor text (or perhaps offer students a choice of using the book that appeals most to them), have students write their own definitions and examples of what love is. Have students illustrate their work through any artistic media. Collect each student’s work, and create a class anthology of their definitions and examples to share with or give to their families and friends.
- Illustrating Love. While lush and lyrical, Matt de la Peña’s and Nikki Giovanni’s text also leaves room for readers to envision the situations that he describes. Loren Long’s and Ashley Bryan’s gorgeously detailed illustrations provide some examples of those situations. What are some others? Pull some text excerpts from either book and project them before the whole class. Ask students to think of and envision other situations or events that the text could be describing. Then have them sketch or fully illustrate what they envision, using whatever media and artistic styles are available to them. Gather and curate their illustrations into a “Love Gallery.”
- Using the Senses to Describe Love. Rather than offer a single, absolute definition of love, these books provide many wonderful examples of what love feels, looks, sounds, tastes, and feels like. Help students do a close reading of the ways in which Matt de la Peña and Nikki Giovanni center their descriptions of love on what we are able to observe through our senses. Have students try out their own descriptions of what love feels like, looks like, sounds like, tastes like, and feels like. Make sure they study how both authors use precise words, as well as figurative language, to make those descriptions come alive for readers.
- Multimodal Representations of Love. Words are not the only ways to express what love is. What are some ways of representing love that don’t rely solely on written or spoken language? Help students brainstorm a number of multimodal ways of communicating (e.g., through music, dance, drama, photography, etc.), and then help them think about how those different modes can be used to express love. You might want to share with them some famous paintings that depict love, or this list of 50 best love songs of all time. Have students prepare and curate a series of multimodal presentations about what they think about love.
- Poems about Love. Consider how love has been defined by poets over time and select a few examples, including some of the poems in I am Loved. Compare and contrast how love is described and what kinds of love are given attention. Are there certain literary periods when love is given more attention in poetry than others? Are there certain poets that center love as one of their favorite subjects to write about? Poetry Foundation’s list of love poems may be a place to start, but don’t forget to also enlist the help of your school or local librarian to gather a collection of these poems.
- Love is All Around. Have students go out into the community to find images, symbols, and statements of love. For example, they might see a billboard, a plaque on a building or statue, an advertisement in a magazine. You might even provide students with class iPads or digital cameras and take them on a community walk around the school to do this. Have students share what they’ve found in class to compare and contrast and analyze what type of love is depicted. What kinds of love seem to be spotlighted most? What needs to be celebrated and promoted more?
- Love Projects. As both books demonstrate, love is much more than noticing or saying. It’s also doing. Across the world, various kinds of social action projects with the word Love in its name are being pursued, ranging from social marketing campaigns to independent businesses to medical foundations. Some examples Project Love, which provides online courses and programs to “empower women to find love in all areas of their lives by creating a life, career and relationship they love,” and the Morning Star Foundation’s Love Project, which aims to provide medical, financial, emotional, and physical needs for families with children born with congenital heart disease to support orphan prevention and family preservation. But love projects don’t have to be so ambitious or work on such a large scale. What can your students do as a class love project to make some aspect of the world better? Maybe it’s holding a bake sale to raise funds to buy toys to donate to the local hospital. Or perhaps it’s spending time at a nursing home to do arts and crafts with the residents there. Brainstorm possibilities with your students, and guide them to conduct the research and set up the structures needed to initiate their love project.
- Being Honest about Love. Earlier this month, Matt de la Peña wrote and article for Time about the scene in Love with the piano and how he and Loren Long “fought to keep the ‘heavy’ illustration.” In these turbulent political times, when government policies, social sentiment, and divisive rhetoric are placing families, friends, and neighbors against one another, how can we help children find the love that’s around them? How do we help them believe in love when so many messages and examples of anger and mistrust are circulating through their lives? What topics are “off limits” when we talk with students about love? Multiple Newbery Award winning author Kate DiCamillo penned a response to Matt de la Peña that offers one possible answer. Invite students to discuss these questions, as well as the questions that Matt de la Peña asks in his article. Since this topic can be a sensitive one, make sure you have the support of your school administrators and family communities before introducing it. You might even invite some of them into your classroom to share their thoughts and help facilitate conversations.
Projects with Love
- Love Is Project –https://www.loveisproject.co
- Project Love – https://loveprojectlove.com
- Morning Star Foundation’s Love Project – https://morningstarproject.org/love-project/
Paintings and Sculptures about Love
- The 10 Best Love Paintings – https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/feb/14/the-10-best-love-paintings-valentines-rembrandt-watteau-renoir-chagall-magritte
- Art about Love – https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-02-06/art-about-love-14-pieces-inspire
Songs about Love
- The 50 Top Love Songs of All Time – https://www.timeout.com/newyork/music/50-best-love-songs
- The Best Songs with Love in the Title – https://www.ranker.com/list/the-best-songs-with-love-in-the-title/ranker-music
Poems about Love
- Poetry Foundation – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/145134/love-poems-5a2f223201f49
- Poets.org – https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/love-poems
Some Favorite Books about Love
Freeman, D. (1968). Corduroy. Viking.
McBratney, S. (1994). Guess how much I love you. Ill. by A. Jeram. Walker Books.
Penn, A. (2006/1993). The kissing hand. Ill. by R. E. Harper & N. M. Leak. Tanglewood Press.
Richardson, J., & Parnell, P. (2005). And Tango makes three. Ill. by H. Cole. Simon & Schuster.
Silverstein, S. (1964). The giving tree. Harper & Row.
Williams, M. (1922). The velveteen rabbit. Ill. by W. Nicholson. George H. Doran Company.
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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