How Do I Love You?
The board book format with the padded cover promises a warm, nonthreatening message; the contents represent a superior delivery. Taking off from Browning's famous opening line (“Let me count the ways”), Bauer (On My Honor ) compares a parent's love to the unchanging conditions of the natural world: “I love you as the bird/ loves a song to sing./ I love you as the waking bear/ loves the smell of spring.” In what look like mixed-media collages, Church (Do Your Ears Hang Low? ) uses fields of gentle textures as a foil for the central figure, a toddler with yellow ringlets and minimalist features, who watches the bird while holding her rabbit and sucking reflectively on her finger, then takes the hand of a bear whose snout is pointed skyward, ecstatically sniffing. Other humans are conspicuously absent, focusing attention on the girl's relationship to the landscape around her. In the final spread, she stands on a globe's curving surface, lit by the moon and stars; the speaker of the final lines (“I love all that you will be / and everything you are”) isn't seen. The world seems hers alone. Ages 3–5. (Jan.)