An enduring tale of the deep bond shared between parent and child, global bestseller Guess How Much I Love You celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. For over two decades the tender tale of Big and Little Nutbrown Hare – beautifully rendered by Anita Jeram’s watercolours – has been much loved by readers of all ages, selling over 28 million copies in 53 different languages.
Junior sat down with the author of Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney, to find out what he thinks about the book’s stellar success and why he thinks it’s so vital to celebrate the love between a parent and their child.
Why do you think Guess How Much I Love You has become such a timeless classic?
It is a combination of Anita Jeram’s inspired drawings, thoughtful design, shrewd marketing and simple enduring words. Actually a lot could be written about why it still sells in a market where other lovely books have not endured. I don't actually know why it has been so successful, but something a parent said to me may offer a clue: ‘Take your child on to your knee, read him or her this story two or three times, and you sort of get the feeling that it's ... true.’
What inspired you to write it?
Twenty years on, I'm not sure why I wrote this book in this way; although I do remember that I embarked on the task of writing a picture book because my editor at Walker Books asked me to.
How important was it to you that the images complimented the story?
In the case of Guess How Much I Love You, the words came first: the illustrator had no say in the words and I had no say in the pictures. It was important to me that Anita should deliver the humour implicit in the story as well as the emotion – and she did both.
What picture books did you read to your children?
There weren’t that many picture books back then – my first child was born in 1965. I used to make up stories for them to create the pictures themselves.
Do your grandkids have any favourites?
In reading to children, what I have found is that little ones have books to which they will return again and again, and if the grown-up puts energy into reading it, a child will often respond in a favourable manner.
What message do you hope readers, both big and small, will take away from Guess How Much I Love You?
That reading a favourite story together can be fun.