Matt de la Peña started writing Love as an uplifting poem for children, but he soon felt that something was missing. He had, in his words, failed to "acknowledge the other side." He decided he wanted to share with children an honest picture of love: the world holds sadness and loss in addition to comfort and sweetness. So Love became the moving book that it is today, in which a different child on each spread, in all colors of the human rainbow, learns about love in its multifarious forms.

After the tender, quiet beginning in which "there is light/ and two wide-eyed figures standing/ near the foot of your bed,/ and the sound of their voices is love," things turn a bit darker. On one spread, smoke pours from an apartment building's windows and "you're pulled from sleep and whisked/ into the street, where a quiet old/ lady is pointing to the sky./ 'Stars shine long after they've flamed/ out,' she tells you, 'and the shine they/ shine with is love.'" In subsequent pages, you discover that "it's not only stars that flame out..../ It's summers, too./ And friendships./ And people." Kindness and warmth suffuse every page, so readers never doubt that love is ever-present, even in sorrow and confusion.

Beautiful illustrations by Loren Long (Good Day, Good Night; Nightsong) are made using a process of collaged monotypes overlaid with acrylic paint. With its textures and irregularities, the artwork is, as Long says, "a bit raw, a bit vulnerable, a bit messy.... Kind of like love itself." True words. Long and de la Peña (Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson) hit the mark with Love, eschewing sentimentality and banalities for a portrait of love framed in honesty. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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