Parents, caretakers, and educators who want to engender the concept of self-love and self-acceptance in children have many resources at their fingertips. Google the subject, and you’ll be met with abundant page results, tips, and suggestions. Shelves in the self-help section of any bookstore buckle with books on this very topic. Despite cries that we live in a culture of spoiled, overprotected children, we see crises of confidence—such as in rising rates of depression and anxiety in children.
Teaching self-acceptance starts from birth, as many experts will tell you. It’s clear in Lorie Ann Grover’s newest book that she knows this. This padded board book is called I Love All of Me (on shelves next month), and it features toddlers at play—very young children who explore their bodies and exude an unbridled confidence about them. (And this book is sturdy, as books for babies and toddlers should be. Its thick, rounded-edge pages can withstand the repeated affection of enthusiastic young ones, still learning how to handle books.) Throw a rock, and you can hit an inspiring picture book about learning to love yourself. Some of them are, quite simply, dreck. But Grover’s book gets right to the point in an unfussy and streamlined way; it’s a breath of fresh air and just right for sharing with the toddlers in your life.
Toes that wiggle. Noses that smell. Tongues that lick. Hips that dance. These toddlers relish in them all. Grover’s language is playful (“blinky eyes” and “waggle rump”), and she writes in rhyming couplets that are pleasing to read aloud. The text is laid out in a simple black type, perfect for running one’s finger along when sharing with toddlers (to kick-start those emergent literacy skills).
Illustrator Carolina Búzio (also an animator), born and raised in Portugal and now living and working in Berlin, showcases children of various ethnicities wondering at their bodies. We see many of their body parts up close: We are right next to a child smelling a flower and appreciating his “smelly nose,” and it’s as if we are in the eyes of the toddler looking down at her own moving toes. And Grover and Búzio don’t celebrate movement only. They also give a shout-out to brains “so wise” and the squeaks that come from an adult lovingly tossing a child into the air.
There’s a spread celebrating a “tummy bump”; this moment of body positivity, in a culture that would have us bemoan padding on one’s body (especially women), is a welcome thing. Turn the page to see a young black girl with springy curls, celebrating her afro-textured hair: “I love my hair all free,” the text reads. If you read stories—such as these featured last year at the BBC’s website, including the story of the journalist who penned the piece (“I was 13 years old when I first got my hair chemically straightened. … I was so excited to have my hair just like all the women I saw on TV and in magazines”)—then you’ll recognize the power of this particular spread.
In Viki Ash’s “What Makes a Good Board Book?” piece at the Horn Book, written in 2010, she writes about the reasons we share board books with young children. Among those is to “create a joyful and loving connection between babies/toddlers and their grownups.” With a book like Grover’s at the ready, that grownup can say to a child: I love you just the way you are, and I want you to do the same. What a powerful and compassionate sentiment.
The book is evidently the first in a new series of padded board books, called Wonderful Me, intended to build confidence in children and celebrate the social and emotional milestones of their lives. My interest is piqued, and I’m eager to see the books that follow. Grover’s and Búzio’s book marks an excellent start, and it’s the kind of book that can become a perennial family favorite.
Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.
I LOVE ALL OF ME. Text copyright © 2019 by Lorie Ann Grover. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Carolina Búzio. Illustration above reproduced by permission of the publisher, Scholastic, New York.