What does love mean, ponders Basma. She hears the word mentioned everywhere but can’t find a tangible instance of it in her everyday world. Is it long like an elephant’s trunk or thin like spaghetti? Is it red like a rose or blue like the sky? She goes to ask Mum, who’s busy sorting out the family’s clothes in readiness for winter. Mum replies that love is like winter clothes, which keep us warm and cosy and protect us from the cold. Basma seeks out Grandpa, then the rest of the family in turn, and discovers, through this comparison, what love is. In taking the analogy to its logical conclusion, she concludes that she is a warm woolly hat!
Translated from Arabic, the story uses both words and pictures to build an affectionate snapshot of family life with love at its heart. It also treats what is a sophisticated idea for this age group – the concept of love, an abstract noun – with charm and humour, epitomising the difficulty many children have in grasping its meaning. Mum’s somewhat literal explanation is original and wise, referencing a child’s own everyday experience. There’s lots of repetition in the text to encourage newly independent readers, and the layout – large font, unjustified line lengths and clearly defined text areas – also helps readability. The story gains much from the decorative pictures in soft earthy colours and simple shapes.