When I was a little girl, my mother read me Robert Munsch's book, Love You Forever, and she cried. My mother never cries. She didn't cry when she dropped me off at college 14 hours away from home, when I took off for Italy for five months, when I got married, or when I gave birth to her first grandchild. However, Love You Forever incited real, crocodile tears. Maybe that's why I found the book so sentimental, and why my best friend gave it to me on the day I gave birth to my firstborn son.
It had been years since I read it, but that night, after having survived sixteen hours of labor, I opened up its pages once more and my family gathered around to hear the familiar song: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be." I began the memorable story of a mother who holds her newborn son, rocks him back and forth, and sings to him of her love, carrying on this tradition as he grows into a two year old, a nine year old, and so forth, sometimes making her feel like she was in a zoo, sometimes making her feel that she wanted to sell him to the zoo. We laughed at all the right parts. But then the story progressed, and I waited for tears to fall. Instead, I could hardly believe this was the same book that had made my mother cry so many years before. The book took a creepy turn. In an effort to be almost sickly sentimental, Robert Munsch takes his sappiness a bit too far. You'll have to read it to fully experience it, but let's just say it involves an old mother sneaking out of her home on especially dark nights and breaking into her son's house, who is now a grown man, to climb through his bedroom window, crawl across his floor, and look up over the side of his bed. The rest you'll have to read for yourself.
This time the book didn't make my mother cry (though I did hear a chorus of nervous chuckles). However, this is what it is intended to do; you might say Munsch tries a little too hard. The ending is still sweet, but it's the middle of the book that suddenly makes you feel like you've entered the twilight zone. It may not make you cry, but the shock of it all just might make you laugh.
Interestingly enough, I still read this book to my son, almost every day. Maybe because it's sentimental to me, but I think it's due to a bit more than that. There's something about Love You Forever that keeps me coming back for more! It's a beautiful story about a mother's love for her son, and later, a son's love for his mother. The illustrations capture my son's attention. I know this book so well that I can practically say it by heart. So maybe it has a dark side; it's clear that Munsch didn't mean for it to be so sinister, and for those of us who read children's books every day, it adds a new, interesting dimension that other children's books don't have to offer. My advice? You must read Love You Forever. In my book, it's quickly becoming a classic.