“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
Anyone familiar with children’s books will recognize these lines from Love You Forever, one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. The best seller is an account of a mother’s progressive love for her son, from his years as a helpless infant and toddler through the forever-turbulent teenage years and beyond.
Written by Canadian author Robert Munsch and published in the fall of 1986, more than 8 million copies of Love You Forever have been sold in the last 30 years, with no end in sight.
But readers’ perceptions of the story vary. Is the illustrated book, as some believe, simply a description of a mother’s unwavering love for and devotion to her child? Or is the book’s message more of a general warning to parents against constant hovering and interfering in their children’s lives?
You may be surprised to discover the genesis behind the book has nothing to do with either of these; rather, the story originated after two sad episodes in the lives of the author and his wife.
On his Web site, Munsch explains Love You Forever started out as a song in memory of their two stillborn babies. “I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song was my song to my dead babies.”
Still, he was unable to sing it aloud because “every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing,” he recalls.
But he eventually, Munsch realized the lyrics could be turned into a children’s book, and the result is a book whose message transcends generations – which became clear when Munsch’s publisher reported that the book was selling surprisingly well in Arizona’s retirement communities.
“In fact, it turned out that parents buy it for grandparents and grandparents buy it for parents and kids buy it for everybody and everybody buys it for kids,” Munsch writes.
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
Like knowing the true meaning behind a favorite song, understanding the true origins of this children’s favorite will likely put those words in a whole new light.