What is Love? by Mac Barnett art by Carson Ellis
Just in time for Valentine's Day, a consideration of love. One simple boy, living a simple life, asks his grandmother a question, "What is Love?" She responds, "I can't answer that." and encourages him to find the answer for himself. So begins his quest.
The search starts with a fisherman who declares that love is a fish, which "glimmers and splashes, just out of reach." The young man counters with his objections to fish.
The journey continues with an actor who loves applause because "You exist. You are seen." But the questioner is not convinced. Certainly love is more than applause.
He poses his question to a variety of individuals including a cat, carpenter, farmer, and soldier. The predictable pattern goes on. Everyone has a definition of love. When the boy refutes each response he is told "You do not understand."
Barnett's pacing is noteworthy. When the boy encounters the cat, there is no time for a thoughtful response as a dog, tongue out and panting, chases the cat off the page.
The narrative takes a long and thoughtful pause when a poet, with pages and pages of words, considers the matter of love and asks the boy to sit down.
Ellis' signature gouache illustrations give the tale a slightly fanciful quality while retaining the reassuring warmth of home. End papers are a intriguing continuation of the boy's odyssey and are not to be missed.