Review by Booklist Review
A young child intimidated by the vast size of the universe has trouble falling asleep, so Dad plans a camping trip just for the two of them. They drive into the desert noting all that they see: plants, birds, and tracks in the sand. They build a fire, sing songs, watch the sunset, and snuggle into their truck bed to sleep under the stars. Dad allays his progeny's fears by explaining that stars are made of energy, the same as everything on Earth. Love (Julián Is a Mermaid, 2018) offers up a relatable, young protagonist seeking security and safety in the surrounding world. The watercolor, gouache, and ink illustrations privilege evening blues and desert earth tones that are enlivened by splashes of pink and green depicting flora, sunrises and sunsets, and clothing. Several of the spreads depict fantastical scenes as the child imagines a sky map filled with familiar plants, animals, and even the family truck. A reassuring look at our place in the universe.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
"We're going camping, you and me," Dad says one morning to the young narrator of this picture book. The two set out for the desert in the white-presenting family's pickup truck, encountering the land's beauty, captured by Love (I Love You Because I Love You) in sketchbook-style paintings and carefully observed phrases ("This is my best smell" says the child about the mountains' fragrance). In images that center the experience of having a parent's undivided attention, father and child identify flora and fauna, jump in sand dunes, and snuggle under the starry desert sky, its vastness echoed accessibly in the print of their truck-bed blanket. When the child confesses to being frightened by "how big the universe is and how it goes on forever and ever," Dad knows just what to say. Stars are made of energy, he explains, "Same as you. Same as the beetles and crows and coyotes. It's all friends and family in this universe." It's a gem of a moment, an example of the way a parent can hear and transform a child's fear. When the two return, repeating the names of "all the new friends I've met... beetles, cacti, coyotes, stars," Mom shares another surprise in this tender story about learning to approach that which feels unknown. Ages 4--8. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, Gernert Co. (Apr.)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
PreS-Gr 2--A young boy has a fear of going to sleep. "It used to be, when it was time for bed, I would imagine the whole universe stretching on endlessly, forever. The bigger it got, the smaller I felt. I was too worried to fall asleep." His mom and dad have a plan to help him face his fears, and the boy and his father get out of town for an overnight camping trip in the desert. They are going "to shake hands with the universe." On the way, they explore the flora and fauna of the desert, as well as the sunset, and eventually the stars. Through this series of small events, the boy comes to realize that he and the stars and all the nature around him are made of the same energy, and he finds comfort in sleeping in the truck bed with his father close beside him and a sea of stars that now have names. When he returns home, his mother has surprised him by sticking glow-in-the-dark stars all over his room so that he now has "the whole universe in my little bedroom." Love's illustrations, done in watercolor, gouache, and ink, capture the beauty of the desert as well as the love between the boy and his father. VERDICT In an essential book about facing almost any kind of fear, the creator's ability to honor those fears without making them the entire focus is truly remarkable and renders a universal appeal.--John Scott
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Review by Horn Book Review
A redheaded child looks a little skeptical when Dad announces over breakfast that the two of them are going camping in the desert "to shake hands with the universe." After saying goodbye to Mom and the baby, they pack up Darlin', their pickup truck, and set off. The child narrator notices the change in smells as they drive up into the mountains, which have "charred black trees and also a lot of flowers." Love pairs this imagery with a page of labeled mountain flowers. After stopping by a junkyard to pick up spare parts and chat with the owner, parent and child set up camp by the sand dunes. At night they lie under a cozy blanket on Darlin's bed and name stars after the things they have seen that day. The narrator is comforted by the idea that "we're all made of the same stuff, in different bodies." Love's watercolor, gouache, and ink illustrations include both factual information (the steps to build a fire) and warm, loving scenes of father and child together. By the time they return home, the child's body language is relaxed and content, and they greet Mom and baby happily. The desire for one-on-one attention from a parent is one many children will relate to, and the final picture shows the child as a constellation, "at home in the universe." Susan Dove LempkeMarch/April 2023 p.49 (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Under the desert night sky, Dad helps his child find cosmic comfort. The vast universe has made a child feel too small despite their close family. Until, the young narrator tells us, they and their father pack their old pickup, driving through the "rubber and french fries" smell of the city and the "sweet and smoky" mountain scent to camp off-road in a remote arroyo. Together they see tiny beetle prints, jump in sand dunes, name birds, build a fire, watch the sunset, and stretch out in the truck bed. A thoughtful, small human, the child admits to being scared of "how big the universe is and how it goes on and on forever." But equally thoughtful Dad explains that stars, beetles, birds, and even people are made of energy. Angst is not easily tamed, but snuggling and giving the constellations idiosyncratic names help, as does Mom's back-at-home surprise: glowing stars covering the narrator's room. In this bed under the stars, this budding philosopher finally feels "at home here in the universe." It's a quiet, contemplative tale that might not strike a chord with all readers but will reassure those who share the protagonist's worries. Delicate, realistic art plays warm orange and brown hues against blues from pale to indigo, balancing (living) warmth and (interstellar) distance. The child and family are light-skinned and redheaded. (This book was reviewed digitally.) A lovely vision for small, sensitive existentialists. (Picture book. 6-8) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.