You may not necessarily know it, but if you’ve been anywhere neat a bookshop in the last thirty years, or have known a kid during that time, you’re probably familiar with the work of Sam McBratney.
McBratney’s biggest hit, Guess How Much I Love You, has sold dozens of millions of copies since its release in the 90s. It’s been translated into more than fifty languages, has consistently been hailed as an essential book for early education teachers and has remained a firm family favourite.
It has been just over a month since McBratney passed away, leaving behind a legacy of love and delight.
McBratney was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1943. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in modern history and political science he earned a living working as an English and history teacher. He began publishing books in the 70s while still working in education, but it was not until 1994 and the publication of Guess How Much I Love You (a charming and remarkably gentle bedtime tale that centres on ever-growing expressions of love) that he became a fulltime author. The book became an international phenomenon. Throughout his writing career, McBratney demonstrated a kindly mastery of words and emotion. His books never fail to fully communicate and important message while touching and educating their audience. In fact, his tender evocations of unconditional love and warmth become somewhat legendary:
“Sam McBratney was a profoundly lovely human being,”…. “You could recognize his voice in a moment—he was an exceptionally talented wordsmith and always knew exactly what children would enjoy hearing the most. Amazingly humble, he also was a hilarious storyteller and convivial companion. We never had better days than when he would come down from Ireland to visit the offices in London. Our world dims with his passing, but his legacy of kindness and humor will burn bright and carry on across time and distance through his stories, which have touched the hearts of readers around the globe.”
- Karen Lotz, group managing director of the Walker Books Group in the U.K. and president and publisher of Candlewick Press in the U.S., in an obituary for Publisher’s Weekly.
McBratney’s New and Final Book: Will You Be My Friend?
More than twenty-five years since Little Nutbrown Hare appeared to play his now famous Guess How Much I Love You game, he is back in a glorious companion to the bestselling classic. In a lovely tale that explores friendship and is delightful from start to finish, Little Nutbrown Hare goes off to explore on his own in search of a companion.
One day, Little Nutbrown wants to play, but Big Nutbrown Hare is busy, so off he wanders in search of adventure and company. He soon spots another hare… but it turns out to be his reflection in a puddle. Then he spies another hare and wants to race it… but it’s only his shadow. Finally, way up on Cloudy Mountain, Little Nutbrown meets Tipps, a snowy white, actually real, hare he might be able to play with.
Featuring, of course, the gorgeous illustrative talents of long-time collaborator Anita Jeram, Will You Be My Friend? will absolutely charm parents and kids alike with its simple, heartfelt message.
Click here for an activity sheet
Some More Sam McBratney Favourites
Guess How Much I Love You
“I love you right up to the moon – AND BACK!” Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing just how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure!
Guess How Much I Love You follows the story of two Nutbrown Hares, Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare asks Big Nutbrown Hare the title question, “Guess how much I love you?”, and the book continues as the two use larger and larger measures to quantify how much they love each other in answer to the question. The story is simple, but effectively shows the love the two share for each other.
Many of McBratney’s best known works are adapted versions of Guess How Much I Love You, tweaked to teach youngsters about certain concepts. These include Guess How Much I Love You in the Winter, In the Summer, Colours, When I’m Big and All Year Round, among several more. But his output was by no means limited to these books.
Click on the links for some fun activities
You’re All My Favourites
A lovely parable of parental love and sibling relationships, You’re All My Favourites is about allaying an insecurity felt by a large number of children at some point.
One night, three baby bears ask Daddy Bear which one of them he loves the most and who his favourite is… because, they think, they can’t all be the best. Every night from then on Mummy and Daddy Bear provide the ultimate reassurance: we love you all so much, you’re all the best baby bears in the whole world and you are all my favourite.
I’ll Always Be Your Friend
A mother’s friendship is for life… but it often takes us a while to realise this.
At the end of a busy day playing outside, Mother Fox tells Little Fox that it’s time to go home. But Little Fox is not ready to stop playing. As he runs off, defiantly telling his mum that she is no longer his friend, Mother Fox simply states that she will always be his friend. From there, the two embark on a gorgeous journey that will ultimately prove that the friendship between a mother and her child has no end.
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
It’s easy to worry about things you can’t see isn’t it? Who among hasn’t worried about the creature that lives under the bed or in the cupboard or… at the top of the stairs at least once or twice?
In this super tale of bravery and discovery, three little mice decide that they have to find out for themselves whether there really is a monster at the top of their stairs. A wise old mouse tells them it may be dangerous, but the three youngsters are determined to make it all the way, step by step, further and further into the dark until they reach the monster’s lair. And finally they make it. Huddle together and mustering all their courage, the three mice are at last ready to meet the creature who lives in the dark.
Better for slightly older kids, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs gradually and beautifully dispels the shadows.
McBratney’s bibliography contains more wonderful books than we are able to list here, but if you fancy having a look for some more, check out http://www.guesshowmuchiloveyou.com/books
RIP Sam McBratney