Papa, do you love me?
And so begins the journey of a child as his father patiently explains just how much he loves that child, the child he calls “Tender Heart.” Though both the question and the resulting answers are universal, this particular father-child discussion takes place deep in the heart of Africa.
The father walks through the Serengeti, comparing the strength of his love to the African animals and cultural subjects:
I love you more than
They continue on, wandering past a Greenheart tree, drinking from a calabash, talking of things such as birthright cows and the ferocity of the African lion.
the warrior loves to leap,
more than the bush baby
loves the moon,
more than the elder
loves his stories.
After the story, there is a simple two page Glossary. Some of the words are regular terms, explained in the context of the African Maasai tribe. Though the reader has most likely heard of Dance and Water, they will learn that the men of the Maasai tribe often take part in jumping dances, and that water is precious, and the women have to walk very long ways to bring water back to the tribe. There are also definitions of not-so-common words such as an Enkang, which is a Maasai settlement.
All in all, Barbara M. Joosse’s story is simply average. At times the constant unfamiliar terms, though educational, detract too much from the simple story at hand. What saves this from an average, three star rating, are the watercolor illustrations by Barbara Lavallee. They are stunning with full color subjects on earth-toned backgrounds.
My three-year-old son enjoyed this book more than my six-year-old daughter did, though it did lead to an interesting conversation about a culture completely different than our own. However, my son was drawn to the relationship between the son and his father, as well as the beautiful illustrations. If you have already read and enjoyed Barbara M. Joosse and Barbara Lavallee’s last collaborative effort, Mama, Do You Love Me?, you will no doubt enjoy this one as well. Even if you haven’t, however, this is a sweet, simple story about the love of a father for his child, with striking pictures and an opportunity for educational conversation. You can’t go wrong!