Book Review: “The Love That Grew” by Sarah Ayoub and Mimi Purnell (@bysarahayoub @mimimoo_illustration @HarperCollinsAU @EasternRegional)

The Love That Grew (HarperCollins Publishers, March 2022) by Sarah Ayoub, illustrated by Mimi Purnell

The Love That Grew (2022), by Sydney-based author Sarah Ayoub and debut illustrator Mimi Purnell, is the perfect book for growing families everywhere. Sweet and tender, it conveys and celebrates the love of all parents for their children.

“Let me tell you of a power that can never be tamed, of how I promise to love you all the same. Something so special you must never forget, no matter how big our family may get…” So begins the parent-narrator , whose love grew with each addition to their family.

Love is like magic: ”Just like a spell that has no end, that cannot break and will not bend… The greatest thing there is around, the kind of force that knows no bounds.”

Just when we think we cannot reach another peak – when we fear the breaking point is near – once again we are reminded of the heart-expanding love: “Longer than a book of a billion pages, a love that can outlast all ages… Protective like the toughest shield, with the kind of strength that will never yield.”

Reading these endearing words from the parent-narrator, some may remember that famous poem from Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861): “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Others may recall Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You (1994), where a father lovingly whispers to his sleeping son: “I love you all the way to the moon and back.”

As for this reviewer, Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever (1986) surfaced from memory. It tells the story of a little boy going through the stages of childhood and becoming a father himself, when he realises the enduring nature of parental love and how it reaches across generations. A truly heartwarming story, especially when you need a good cry.

And, on this fine autumn day, when this reviewer was reflecting on The Love That Grew while watching a father playing with his daughter on the carpeted floor of a medical clinic, Sandol Stoddard Warburg’s book I Like You (1965) came to mind:

“You know how to be silly – that’s why I like you. Boy are you ever silly. I never met anybody sillier than me, til I met you. I like you because you know when it’s time to stop being silly. Maybe day after tomorrow. Maybe never. Too late, it’s a quarter past silly.”

Perhaps this is why The Love That Grew is such a good book – Ayoub’s simple, fun language and not-always-perfect rhythms and rhymes have captured the universal sentiment that is our appreciation of parental love, which is indeed “a magic you cannot buy”.

“A love the world cannot undo, made by me and made for you.” As Purnell’s soft-toned yet subtle illustrations demonstrate, parental love remains the pillar of every culture and society, however the definition of “family” may transform and transcend through time.

The Love That Grew is best read by a parent and suitable for children from zero to two years old. Highly recommended.

Note: This book review, originally titled “Beautiful book about parental love”, was published under the title “Beautiful parental love book” by Ranges Trader Star Mail, May 24, 2022, P.23.

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