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This book tells the story of a very grumpy little fox and its parent sharing an evening together. Small fox wishes to be reassured that Big Fox will always love him, no matter what. As the book progresses, we see the pair in various scenes, each time Small Fox is a different, unattractive animal (for example, at bathtime he's an alligator, but he still wants his teeth brushed).
The beauty in the book is not only in the touching message of unconitional parental love, but also in the detail. Each illustration has a lot of depth to it, lots of things to discover. There are flying ducks on the wall, there's an illustration of a chicken, showing the parts, there is a recurring toy which parent fox fixes during the course of the book.
The parent rings true - there's a distracting phone call, and a thousand things going on at the same time as small fox's fears are dealt with.
Most importantly, at the end of the book, small fox is happy and ready for bed, and so is my own small one.
If there is one message that you want to convey to your child it is that you'll love them, come what may. It gives the child security and a sense of belonging. There are many children's books on the market that touch on the subject and some that are specifically written for the purpose.
Debi Gliori's "No Matter What" falls into the latter category. Many of these books can tend to the sickly sweet (or go too far the other way in the case of books such as "I'll Love You Forever") but I think "No Matter What" hits just the right note.
Large is a fox and, we assume, mum to Small. This is purely my assumption of a traditional family, however, and Large could be dad, big sister or even carer. What's important is that Small wants to know that Large loves him (or her).
In true, child-like fashion, Small runs through a number of scenarios - will anything stop Large from loving him? Maybe if Small was a bug, a bear, a crocodile or, perish the thought, dead. No matter what, says Large, I'll love you forever.
This is a clever, clever book on many accounts. That we assume, yet do not know, the relationship between Large and Small makes the book very versatile. Indeed, as my son was quite young when I first read this book to him I substituted "Mum" for "Large" as I thought it made more sense. You could equally make any other substitution you felt appropriate. Similarly, Small could be male or female.
The use of humour is clever - my son never fails to laugh when Small turns into a crocodile and much "snap snap snapping" ensues. The illustrations help here too. The illustrations lead us through a bedtime routine but with Small transforming into different creatures until finally he looks out of the bedroom window with Large, back to himself, and convinced that love goes on.
The illustrations are bright, without being garish and follow the style of the cover illustration which you can see above. The characters are expressive and particularly well developed for a children's book. The font is clear on the pictures making it easy to read in the half-light and easy for children to follow when they are able.
The story is written in a rhyming style. It has a good meter and one can get quite a sing-song rhythm going without much effort. The language is appropriate and even the subject of death is dealt with in a gentle manner and requires no dwelling.
My son is 2 and adores this book, particularly at bedtime. My husband and I both read it in slightly different ways, which goes to show the versatility of this short book but both ways are equally enjoyed by our son.
I'd really recommend this book as a great bedtime book to snuggle up with. Suitable for ages 2-5.
I first came across Debi Gliori from the Woodland Friends series of books. These were a series of board books with sparkly bits in them to attract a young child's attention. For more information you can have a look at my reviews on them.
I then found a couple of her Mr Bear books and my son also loved these so of course he leapt at the chance to get yet another of her books from the library in the form of this lovely tale.
For older readers, she also writes the Pure Dead series.
The story starts with a little fox called Small who is not very happy at all and a picture of his mother, Large, in the background.
"Playing toss and fling and squash,
yell and scream and bang and crash.
Break and snap and bash and batter
'Good grief,' said Large.
'What is the matter?'
Small said, 'I'm a grim and grumpy little Small
And nobody loves me at all.'
'Oh Small,' said Large. 'Grumpy or not,
I'll always love you no matter what.'"
Small then goes on to ask Large would love him if he were a grizzly bear, a bug or a crocodile. Large always tells him the same answer, that she would love him no matter what.
Small then gets a little bit philosophical and asks if love wears out, breaks or bends and wonders if it can be fixed, stuck or mended. Large isn't sure but reassures him that she will love him forever.
The book ends with Small asking,
"'But what about when we're dead and gone,
would you love me then, does love go on?'
Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night,
At the moon in the dark and the stars shining bright.
'Small, look at the stars - how they shine and glow,
but some of those stars died a long time ago.
Still they shine in the evening skies
Love, like starlight, never dies.'"
When you look at the final picture you can see a picture of their house with them both cuddling up at a window, looking at the stars.
The pictures in this book are lovely and go really well with the story. The characters are realistic looking and the expressions on their faces are amazing. The colours are bright and the writing is bold and black so it stands out well on the backgrounds.
I'm turning into rather a big fan of Debi Gliori and my son loves the simple rhymes and funny images on the pages. Although he is 5 now, he loves nothing more than having a cuddle with me and is always telling me how much he loves me so this book seems to really hit home for him.
It's a simple story along the way with some beautifully, clear illustrations and just has an amazing 'Awwww' factor to it. I know that all children need reassurance that they are loved and this book lets a parent see how they might be wondering. We see the expression of worry and sadness on Small's face when he thinks that there might be times when Large won't love him and then the smile and happiness that appears when Large tells him what he needs to hear.
The rhymes are great for encouraging a child to read along with you and my son had this book memorized after only a few reads. It's a lovely one to read at bedtime as you can tuck you child in and give them a big cuddle as you read it to them. My son sometimes pretends to be a bug or a crocodile snapping as we go through the book. I always give him a big cuddle just like Large does with Small.
I know quite a few people are still unaware of this amazing author's work and I urge all parents to start to have a look around, either at your library or at a bookshop to see if you can get your hands on some of her work. They really are lovely books and my son is a definite fan.
***Other Debi Gliori Books***
When I'm Big
Give Him My Heart
Mr Bear's New Baby
Mr Bear's Picnic
Mr Bear To The Rescue
Mr Bear's Holiday
Mr Bear Babysits
***Price and Availability***
This large paperback sells for £5.99 but is available from Tesco for only £4.49.
ISBN No. 0747563314
'I'm a grim and grumpy little Small and nobody loves me at all,' said a small fox. But that's not true and Small's mother is determined to prove that her love is limitless - no matter what! With sparkly foil stars and a small, sturdy board format, this is the perfect story to share with the very young. A beautiful, lyrical, loving book about setting big worries to rest, by the extremely talented Debi Gliori.