When Large sees that Small is incredibly "grim and grumpy," she inquires as to why. Small explains that he believes Large doesn't love him. Large assures him she does and always will, mo matter what.
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The story continues with Small coming up with different scenarios in which Large may not love him. What if he were a grumpy, grizzle bear or turned into a squishy bug? He even tries to catch her off guard by suggesting he could be a crocodile. Not even that makes Large flinch. She simply replies, "I'd still hold you close and snug and tight, and tuck you up in bed each night."
Small still has concerns, though. "...does love wear out? Does it break or bed? Can you fix it or patch it? Does it mend?" (Note the gentle rhymes in the two previous quotes.) Large gently explains that time together, smiles and kisses can mend love. Finally, Small wants to know what happens when Large is far away. Is the love still there? Using the light of the far off stars as an example, Large tells Small how no matter where someone may be, their love still reaches others and surrounds them.
While at the forefront of No Matter What is a child needing reassurance of love, Debi Gliori is providing the comforting illustrative backdrop of the evening routine between parent and child. While reading the text, we are seeing the two go through dinner, storytime and bathtime. Of course, this makes No Matter What a wonderful story to read after tucking your own little one in.
It is never actually stated that Large is Small's parent. Likewise, the gender labels in my review are my own assumptions as that is never specified either. For me, it just felt right to be mother and son. For others, it may seem otherwise. Perhaps this is the reason the foxes were not wearing clothing that would discern one way or the other. It gives it a greater appeal for boys and girls alike.
The watercolor and ink illustrations are such fun to look at. Since they were done by the author, she has the perfect opportunity to convey exactly what she wishes in order to complement the text.
Before the story actually begins, we see Small looking lonely atop a hill as Large walks into the nearby house with a pail of carrots. The scene corresponding with Smalls initial feelings of grim and grumpy reveal an angry looking little fox stomping down a hall away from his parent, who seems to have taken a break from mopping the floor to chat on the telephone. I'm sure these are things that many young children can relate to. They will occasionally wonder if they are truly loved when they feel lonely or ignored by their parent. They begin to feel a bit emotionally insecure and need reassurance.
Although there are those portions that are more melancholy, there are also amusing details to note. For example, chickens seem to be a favorite item of decor in this household (go figure). They can be found as a toy, calendar, a child's drawing, a teapot and, of course, on the dinner table. Chickens may be favored, but you will also see a cut-of-lamb diagram on the wall.
A detail I was particularly happy to note was the burning down of the candles Large either carried with her or had sitting nearby as the evening wore on. Sometimes a tiny thing such as this can be overlooked by an illustrator, and I'm always impressed to see when that doesn't happen. Contrarily, the page showing to what depths of grim and grumpy Small had fallen are a bit overboard. The bucket on Small's head may be amusing, but not quite so much are the overturned furniture and crooked wall hanging. That anger is not properly addressed in the text but maybe should be discussed following a reading of this book.
No Matter What by Debi Gliori will provide a bit of comfort to children who may be experiencing (or have experienced) the same type of feelings as Small. It can, and should, spark discussions between parent, or caregiver, and child. It's also a wonderful alternative to some of the more energetic bedtime stories available.