Several years ago, I received the picture book No Matter What by Debi Gliori as a gift from my mother. My mom loves books and was an elementary school teacher for many years. She is also completely unable to resist passing along a book that she thinks is wonderful. This particular book was given to me because of its message: the unconditional love a parent has for a child. Though I was an adult when I received the book, now that I have a child of my own, I appreciate it in a whole new way.
Recommend this product?
The characters in No Matter What are Small, a little fox, and Large, a parent fox. We are never given a clue as to whether Small is a boy or girl fox or as to whether Large is a mom or a dad fox. All we know for sure is that the two foxes are parent and child. For the sake of my sanity while writing this review (and in the interest of a little variety in my writing), I will use the pronoun "he" when referring to Small and "she" when referring to Large. Why? Because I have my own little boy now, and I can't wait for the day when he is old enough for me to share this book with him.
As No Matter What begins, Small is feeling "grim and grumpy." We're not told why...bad day? tired? plain old bad mood? Whatever the reason, Small questions whether or not Large loves him at all. Large reassures him, saying that she'll always love him, "no matter what."
Like many children, Small isn't satisfied with the first answer that Large gives. He goes on to question Large some more about her love.
If I were a grumpy grizzly bear,
would you still love me?
Would you still care?"
Large continues to reassure him.
"Of course," said Large.
"Bear or not,
I'd always love you,
no matter what."
In order to test his parent even further, Small asks if he would still be loved if he was a "squishy bug" or a crocodile. The answer, of course, is "no matter what."
Finally convinced that Large would love him no matter what type of animal he was, Small goes on to ask questions about love in general. Does it wear out? Can you break it? Large explains that love can be mended by doing such things as spending time together. What happens when you are far away, Small wants to know. Large compares her love for Small to the light of the stars; though they are far away, their light still reaches us, just as love reaches from parent to child, always.
The text is written in a simple rhyming pattern which never seems contrived. Most pages have only one sentence, making No Matter What a rather quick read.
Gliori is also this book's illustrator. Though No Matter What is sweet and a bit sentimental, there isn't a lot of action to the story. As an illustrator, Gliori lives up to this challenge by using the pictures to move the story along. As Small questions Large, the two of them are going about their nightly routine: eating dinner, reading a story, taking a bath, brushing teeth, fixing a broken toy, and going to bed. These activities, then, give the reader additional action, beyond the simple storyline.
The illustrations, done in watercolor and ink, also help to lighten the mood a bit, to keep things from being too serious. When Small asks if Large would still love him if he was a bear, the illustration shows Large calmly serving dinner to a little bear; the bear of course later becomes a bug and then a crocodile. Kids will enjoy each transformation that Small makes, and Gliori does a terrific job of adding lots of personality to Small and Large through her artwork.
Thrown in more for the benefit of the adults, I think, are some humorous little details. The posters on the wall, for example, show the different parts of a sheep as well as instructions for how to "break into" several different types of trash cans. Small's toys are a pull-along chicken on wheels and a stuffed bunny. On the table are rabbit salt and pepper shakers, and Small wears a bib decorated with chickens. Little tidbits like this, from teapots to pin cushions to the chicken border in Small's room, make it fun to turn each page.
Who Will Enjoy This Book?
I'll start off by saying that the age level of children who would be most entertained by this book is the 3-6 year old group. It's a short story with colorful, sometimes humorous illustrations, and little ones will enjoy the fantasy elements of a child turning into a whole different animal entirely. After all, I know quite a few children who have pretended to be at least one animal in their day. In addition, small children will identify with Small's feelings and his line of questioning.
This is a terrific book to share as a bedtime story; it's always nice to go to bed with an "I love you." I also think it would be an especially nice book to share after a bad day. It's one of those books that would reassure a child that although you don't always love what they do, you will always love the child very much.
Though I in no way wish to equate a book of the caliber of No Matter What with a greeting card, I think it is an appropriate gift for almost any "greeting card holiday" you can think of. Several years ago, Dr. Seuss's Oh, The Places You'll Go was marketed as a great graduation gift. In a similar vein, I think this book would be a great graduation gift, or a great birthday gift, or a great Valentine's Day gift...a super present for any child in your life when you want them to remember that you love them "no matter what." In addition, the fact that the foxes are not specifically represented as being male or female makes the book just that much more appropriate for all readers.
Finally, I think that No Matter What would be a terrific choice for children of any age. It may just be all of those new-mother emotions taking over my heart, but I think that a simple picture book, if it's an excellent one, can be a truly wonderful display of affection. In this case, I can envision someone giving this book to a teenager, a kid who wants to be independent yet deep inside needs the reassurance of a parent. Well, here it is, in book form. Though that child may balk at being given a picture book (Are you crazy, mom?), there's no telling just what this book may mean to him or her, locked behind that seemingly always closed bedroom door. My own mother chose to give this book to me when I was an adult. I had moved away from home, and she wanted to send me a message through the words of the book. It communicated both her pride and her love at the same time, and she sure succeeded. The book has a prominent spot on the bookshelf in my living room.
So there you have it. I recommend No Matter What on many levels, whether to read with your little one or to present as a gift to your big grown-up one. The simple message is everlasting just the same.
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