Guess How Much I Love You was released 25 years ago, became a world-wide classic, has sold over 50 million copies and been translated into 57 languages. It inspired plays, toys, games and an animated TV show. Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare perfectly captured the bond between children and their carers, whether parent, grandparent, teacher or another special person. The phrase from the book “love you to the moon and back” became a popular bedtime saying and there surely cannot be a library in Australia without a copy of this book on high rotation.
The author Sam McBratney has said the book was just “a light-hearted little story designed to help a big one and a wee one enjoy the pleasure of being together”.
Now Sam McBratney has once again teamed up with illustrator Anita Jeram to create a beautiful story about friendship. In Will You Be My Friend? Little Nutbrown Hare is allowed to venture on his own and he makes a few discoveries and observations as he hops along. He would dearly love someone real to play with rather than his own reflection or his shadow. When he arrives at Cloudy Mountain he gets an enormous surprise: a snow hare is looking at him!
“Will you be my friend? Do you want to play?” Tipps asks.
Soon the two hares are having fun, playing games, and enjoying each other’s company.
Echoing the interactions of our own children, this story will spark conversation about making friends and playing together. Sam McBratney has patiently crafted the perfect words to explore the theme of friendship. In the manner of many picture book authors, he is known for polishing his prose in a painstaking manner to make sure every word deserves its place on the page. His words leave scope for the reader and listener to explore beyond the immediate story, for example, reflecting on whether we will see our friends again.
“When writing about the hares, I aim to describe moments of emotional significance but with loads of humour and the lightest of touches. This story is about one of those moments. Little Nutbrown Hare’s world suddenly glows with the discovery of friendship,” said Sam McBratney.
Anita Jerams’ watercolour illustrations are delicate and winsome, capturing the joy and movement of the excitedly busy little hares. The colours she has selected are pale and delicate, reflecting the colours and vegetation of the natural woodland of Northern Ireland, her home. There are plenty of details on each page to engage little readers and allow them to explore the story beyond the words.
This book is perfect for readers 3+, and any child navigating the phase where they explore independence from carers and the interdependence of friendship. Children will see their lives reflected in this story. Big Nutbrown Hare is gender-neutral, Little Nutbrown Hare is a boy, and Tipps is a girl. It is absolutely perfect for read-aloud activity, bedtime or any special moment of quiet relaxation together. Children will love it “to the moon and back” and adult readers will enjoy revisiting the familiar characters and this warm and comforting world.
Addendum: Sadly, Sam McBratney died on Sept 18, 2020, at his home in County Antrim, Ireland. He was 77. He is fondly remembered as a teacher and author.