The other night, at bedtime, I sent Sasha to her “library” (what she calls her bookshelf) to select some reading material. She returned with Mercer Mayer’s “All By Myself,” a stack of idiotic Corduroy books, and a book I’d seen floating around the house but had never actually opened, “Love You Forever,” written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila MacGraw. Where had this book come from? I wondered. What’s it about?
Well, DadWagon readers, I can now reveal to you that this is the most manipulative, depressing children’s book I’ve ever come across. The conceit is that a new mother waits till her baby is asleep, then sneaks into his room, rocks him “back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” and sings to him this little ditty:
I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be
Throughout the book, the baby gets older, growing into a 2-year-old, then a 9-year-old, then a teenager, then a grown-up man. Ha ha! There’s Mom, sneaking into her grown son’s house to rock him in his sleep! How funny!
But I knew something was up, and as both parent and child grew—and aged—it became harder and harder for me to read aloud. That line—”As long as I’m living”—was carrying with it dreadful implications that eventually became explicit: The mother is finally too old and sick to rock her son, who rushes to her nursing home to cradle her and sing the song he’s heard all his life. Then he goes home to rock his own newborn daughter and sing to her.
I read the ending in a choked whisper. Tears were rolling down my face. Sasha barely noticed. What kind of horrible book was this—so relentlessly rolling toward its bittersweet finale? How could they do this to parents, let alone children? What kind of monster are you, Robert Munsch?
After that, the bland adventures of Corduroy—look at him go fast on his scooter!—were a welcome salve.