Love is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Love is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer,  illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Candlewick, 9781536201994, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Mari and mom are getting reading to join a march (from the pink hats and time frame, we’re meant to understand it’s the 2017 Women’s March.) Using her crayons and a sheet of cardboard, Mari makes a sign that reads “Love is Powerful.” Will her sign be big enough, Mari wonders? Who will see it among so many people? Brewer did notice Mari, riding high on mom’s shoulders, and closes the book with a charming photo of the little girl at the march, as well as a short essay in her own words. The book conveys the power and unity of the diverse crowd: all ages, colors and genders, with many of the slogans from the actual event (“This is not normal”, “I’m a girl; what’s your superpower?”, “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance!”) 

Pham’s watercolor, gouache, pencil and ink drawings are realistic and interesting with a shifting perspective that keeps the audience engaged. Mari works hard on her colorful poster on a full-page bleed, while on the facing page, she imagines people all over the world also getting ready in a series of small vignettes. As the small family leaves their apartment, the orientation shifts from horizontal to vertical as mom and daughter descend to street level in an elevator. The crowd scenes convey magnitude, but also present the mass of participants as interesting individuals. Metaphorical hearts swirl around and over the march as it trumpets a message of love and acceptance. Both Mari and her mother have brown skin and black hair.

Anything you didn’t like about it? There’s no mention of why the people were marching or that Trump’s inauguration was the catalyst for the event, even though the preponderance of women, girl-power messages and the ubiquitous hats make it clear that’s what’s going on. This did strike me as evasive. Were all those marchers motivated by love alone? 

To whom would you recommend this book?  The book makes a rousing case for mass action and definitely shows the powerful agency of the participants. Teachers could pair it with other books about protest that take a more serious approach, for example, A Sweet Smell of Roses (2007) by Angela Johnson and We March (2017) by Shane W. Evans, to show the importance of the First Amendment. It’s well-suited to a read aloud for children grades K-3, with its large, representational illustrations and straight-forward text.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries, possibly elementary school libraries if there is a curriculum connection.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 13, 2020

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Activism, Feminism, Heather Dean Brewer, LeUyen Pham, Protests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.