Love You Forever, Hate You Forever

Alison Morris -- May 6th, 2008

I call it the single most divisive children’s book ever written: Love You Forever, written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw. I haven’t met a single person who DOESN’T feel strongly about this book. Either it moves you to tears and you love it, or it makes your skin crawl and you detest it (as seems to be the case with several of the commenters on last week’s post about books loved by everyone but you). I myself have been known to JOKE (and, truly I’m just joking here) that "How do you feel about Love You Forever?" should be our make-or-break interview question when we’re hiring children’s booksellers. (And, no, I won’t tell you which response is more likely to get you the gig.)

No matter how you feel about it you can’t deny the fact that this book strikes a genuine chord with people, one way or another. The book’s popularity certainly suggests that a large percentage of the public adores it and sings its praises to others. How else could you explain the fact that its worldwide sales hover somewhere around the 15 MILLION mark, according to Robert Munsch’s website? (15 MILLION!! Incredible!!) More than 7 million copies have been sold in the U.S. alone. When PW compiled a list of the All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books in the U.S., Love You Forever was the fourth bestselling picture book in paperback.

As we draw ever closer to the next Presidential election, and worries mount about another Red States/Blue States deadlock, I say we divide along completely different and much less heady lines here: When it comes to Love You Forever, are you a lover or a hater? (And if you have some thoughts as to why, include those too.)

77 thoughts on “Love You Forever, Hate You Forever

  1. Meghan O

    I believe this book was written by an adoptive parent. As an adoptee, my adoptive mother always read me this book. I never thought anything was wrong with the message or story until she bought it as a baby shower gift with the words written to my soon to be son saying “I love you forever my grand baby you’ll be”. It completely sat uneasy with me as an adult. When I reread the story after having my own son and understanding what unconditional love is, I realized I would NEVER violate my child the way this mother in the story does as the child is an adult. It doesn’t surprise me that the author is an adoptive parent. The book portrays the typical traits of being controlling, using a child as means to their own end, and viewing your adopted child as something that belongs to you instead of his or her own person. It’s unsurprising and sickening in so many ways.

    1. matthias bercier

      Honestly i can see where you are coming from, but i want to respectfully say that i think you are reading to much into the narrative. The book is supposed to convey an extreme message of undeniable love. And as a son who lost his mother early in his life, i still think to this day that my love and kindness for all people was born from the song that my mother sang to me as we both fell asleep in a rocking chair. But on the other hand i can completely see where you are coming from and you have a very respectable opinion, but you should also consider that this book wasn’t meant to be taken that literally.

  2. Adam

    I literally detest this book .. I hate it .. It’s so disgusting that it almost makes me sick . I find the art repulsive and and the subject matter grotesque , under no conditions would I read it to a child … and people keep giving it to me , actually my kids , but with the idea that I will read it to them . A third copy showed up under the Christmas tree this year and was summarily dispatched in pieces into the garbage . And I love books , normally if I have no use for something I drop it off at the Salvation Army .. but this book … anyhow I know my reaction is unreasonable . If I get a fourth copy I will tell the person how much I hate it and how I will not tolerate it in my house and the fate that befell the previous three copies ! Apparently I’m not alone in my detestation of this book . I searched ” I love you forever I hate this book ” and discovered that quite a few people felt compelled to share their negative feeling towards it . I feel much better now that I’ve cast my disdain into the ether . Thanks for listening

  3. rw

    I’m not a fan of the book, but apparently it speaks to millions. Who am I to deny the validity of their experience? I also didn’t get into Harry Potter or Twilight. But their popularity doesn’t bother me. No book is for everyone. No book is for no one. A little creativity can find uplifting or disturbing messages in any book.

  4. greg

    it’s funny that people get so riled up about this book. as a child that had it read to me many times, i can say that all it expresses is the undying love that a mother has for their child. a positive message and nothing more.

  5. Julie

    Believe it or not, I asked the minister to read “Love You Forever” at my mom’s funeral. The book represents a love that never dies to me. Then again, I enjoyed “Velveteen Rabbit”, too.

  6. jessica wilson

    If you have ever seen Robert Munsch perform the story you’ll laugh. I’m not sure if he meant it to be ridiculous but I think he did. The way he tells it, it is nutty and laughable…in a GOOD way. but yeah, the illustrations eek me out. Not a fan of the pics.

  7. Vicky

    An early commenter is correct. Bob Munsch wrote this book after his first two infants were stillborn and he realized that he would never see them grow up. The idea of being able to watch his children grow, the longing to have the ability to be with them at all times was seductive for someone who put two infants in the ground. This, to me, makes the book make perfect sense. I don’t personally love the book, but I read it as a poignant sense of loss and desire to see, touch, know the children who are now unknowable.

  8. Kitti

    Hated “Love You Forever”. I don’t find it funny, and I have a seriously dry wit. The love book I read to my daughter is “Guess How Much I Love You”. To the Moon and back! It’s sweet and it’s fun to read, and there isn’t a bit of creepy about it.

  9. celloplayer

    i reamember when my teacher read this book to me and i touched my sooo much i read this book to my students and when i saw this add i imediatly stared to sing the song thats in this book!!! best children/parent book ever!!!

  10. MaryGLibrarian

    Someone gave us Love You Forever and Good Night Moon when my oldest daughter was born. Hated both on first reading – what weird books. Then I read them again. And again. Now I love Good Night Moon – such lovely use of language to soothe and calm and get ready for sleep. And then I read more Munsch books and learned the man has a very weird sense of humor – but I like it. To me the book is obviously satire – but with an underlying message about the cycle of life that is genuinely touching. Illustrations are terrible – ugly and sentimental. I’m not allowed to read this book to the kids when my husband’s around though – *he* cries – and he is not a sentimental man. Rainbow Fish – now that book creeps me out – no satire there.

  11. KatieA

    Love it! The beauty of stories is that they can be interpreted by the reader any way they want and aren’t necessarily literally. Do you also take Goldilocks and the 3 Bears literally? If you don’t have an imagination then maybe you shouldn’t be reading children stories to begin with. My son laughed at the thought of his mother climbing through a window to hug him and he laughed at me for crying while reading him a story.

  12. mkp

    I think that what is wrong with families today is that there isn’t enough closeness and that’s why so many of you do not like this book. It’s probably too much for you because you are emotionally closed off. I am close with my parents, and son, and nieces, and brothers, etc. and I GET it. Most children’s books are about sparking your imagination anyway-sheeeeeeese. Lighten up.

  13. Bookworm

    This book is creepy because the mother WON’T LET GO. It reminds me of how creepy The Runaway Bunny is – when I read that book as a kid, I just felt suffocated. Almost like my mother was never going to let me grow up and go out on my own. And I don’t even have that kind of a mother.

  14. Mo

    I think it’s hilarious that so many people find this book creepy. It’s not supposed to be a true story (as when the mother visits her adult son, that’s a little over the top), but true in the sense that we go through stages in life, and what goes around comes around. It’s the circle of life! I always cry when I read this book out loud to my kids, and they used to ask for it time and time again. I realized they were trying to figure out why I was crying. Finally my son said, “

  15. JG

    It’s a book people. Written by a man who masters basic children’s stories. Whether it speaks to adults or children, stop trying to find hidden meanings and enjoy spending time with your kids just reading. Why does this have to be an issue about creepiness? How in the world is it creepy? You find it creepy ’cause a mother loves her son and breaks into his house at night to hold him? So what if it’s not “realistic” it’s a CHILDREN’S STORY…geez. It’s just supposed to be fun. ugh.

  16. LC

    I am a mother of two and absolutely love the book! When I would try to read it to my now 8 yr old when he was two well he would just hit at it and such. However he reads it to me now and laughs when I cry at it!!!!!

  17. Benita, again

    So late to this party but I can’t resist adding my two cents. “Love You Forever”, “The Giving Tree” “Rainbow Fish” and all those other books that preach the virtues of bizarre dependency on the part of the child and selflessness verging on self-abnegation on the part of the mother simply reflect the fact that emotionally stunted people write emotionally stunted books, then pitch them to emotionally stunted editors who love them and help them find their market of emotionally stunted readers. This is, apparently, a vast market. But y’all knew that because Oprah and titles in the self-help genre reign supreme year after year after year. Read Alice Miller’s “The Drama of the Gifted Child” and you’ll get an interesting perspective on why people have such bizarre notions of what a good parent is.

  18. Maralyn

    Oh, my. It had never entered my mind to “hate” this book, or to find it “creepy.” It may be cloyingly sentimental, but it hit a chord with me, and I used to “sing” it to my daughter, while I actually cried. Sad music also makes me cry…perhaps I am a pathetic, cloyingly,sentimentalwoman, but so what? A baby sitting next to a toilet? Big deal. We all have toilets, and we all use them! Come on, you guys, lighten up a bit! It is just a book. Don’t take this book or yourselves so seriously. Don’t you have something more important to find “creepy?”

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