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Monday, 8 May 2017

No Matter What

Author and Illustrator: Debi Gliori
Publisher: First published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 1999, featured board book edition, 2005

No Matter What is the perfect reassuring read after a big blow out tantrum. It's a simple story; Small, an angry fox cub, is upset (bucket over the head, sat in a room in which the furniture is lopsided, in which Small took part in 'break and snap and bash and batter'. Small's parent / carer, Large, intervenes saying 'good grief, what is the matter?' Note that both Small and Large are non gender specified, so this isn't a 'mother and son' as sometimes billed in reviews, but might equally apply to dad and daughter, grandson and grandparent, foster carer and child, so applicable and useful to many contexts here. 

As the story unfolds, Small worries that nobody loves him/ her as she's/ he's 'grim and grumpy' and Large reassures him/ her persistently 'grumpy or not, I'll always love you no matter what.' Small then suggests a series of scenarios in which he / she might not be loved anymore, so for example, 'turning into a bug' and Large's reaction is always unfathomably a declaration of unconditional love and an act of physical love, so for example, she / he says 'I'll hug you close and tight, and tuck you up in bed each night.' As this dialogue of worry and doubt met by love and reassure goes on, the illustrations show Large calmly readying Small for bed, and fixing all the fall-out from the earlier tantrum. 

This is then, an truly ideal book for building attachment and trust with a child. It is a very useful, appropriate book to give adopters, and in turn for adopters and foster careers to read anxious children in early placement. As an adopter and birth parent myself, I use the book with all my children at times when they're showing signs of needing some reassurance, at times when they've had tantrums, broken something, upset the status quo in some way, to hammer home the message that these things happen, and unconditional love stands. For traumatised children, vulnerable children, of which adoptees often are, this book has such an important message, and says it clearly, repeatively, and frankly. At one point Small questions whether love can be broken and bent, and 'can you fix it, stick it, does it mend?' Large replies with honesty, 'oh help, I'm not that clever, I just know I'll love you forever.' Again, such sincerity, admitting to not knowing as the 'responsible adult' makes much sense in terms of approaching the past experiences of looked-after-children. A board book this may be, and I'm obviously approaching this book from a certain perspective, but No Matter What packs a huge punch; it fills a big void in preschool literature that speaks to and speaks out for looked after children.  

In terms of age range, there's a nice rhyme, a little clumsy in parts maybe, but being short, bright picture filled, it increasingly holds my toddler's attention. In terms of the message, I'm still reading this after a wobble and need of a hug with my seven year old, so No Matter What has a big span. This is a really delightful book that opens emotional dialogue like none other. Highly recommended! 

If you like books that promote discussion, you might also like: Harry and The Snow King

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