There is nothing better than a mother’s love…unless, perhaps, someone finds a way to preserve that love in pictures. Lee & Low Books has found a way, and they did it with author Glenda Armand’s 2011 picture book, Love Twelve Miles Long.
In this brilliantly-illustrated picture book, a young Frederick Douglass copes with being torn from his mother’s arms and banished to his master’s plantation so his mother can work the fields without him as a distraction. Frederick endures the cruelty of his new guardian (mean old Aunt Katy) by day, and waits for night when his mother walks twelve long miles to visit him.
Their visits are beautiful and heartbreaking; beautiful because Frederick’s mother calms his fears and makes him smile as only a mother can, and heartbreaking, because she must walk twelve long miles – after a hard day’s work – just to get to him. If he’s worried that her nightly walk is too much, she quickly reassures him that each mile is special because each mile brings her closer to him.
Wow. Now, that’s love!
This lovely book won the 2011 Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, and once you read it, you’ll know why. The chocolate-colored cover captures the love between a mother and her child in its purest form, drawing readers into the story before it even begins. Armand’s sweet prose is short and fluff-free, yet it flows with a quiet beauty that matches the other illustrations and leaves readers aching to know more about Frederick and his irrepressible Mama.
Colin Bootman’s illustrations are an equal thing of beauty. Each scene is set first in soft coffee-brown or fading gray, then highlighted by a splash of moonlight or candlelight. Bootman captures Frederick’s mother’s tired determination as she walks a starlit path through the quiet woods and makes her way to her precious son. He also captures the faith of a lonely son who waits for his mother in the patchy darkness of his stark cabin home, his little body wrapped in what may be nothing more than sackcloth. And when mother and son come together! Bootman uses candlelight to cast a warm, hopeful glow across those loving faces; it’s a sight to behold.
This book has enough love (and joy, and hope, and beauty, and…well, you get the picture!) for everybody! It targets ages 6 and up, but I don’t see this as just a children’s picture book. I see it as a collector’s item, a work of art that delivers a message of courage and love in the face of impossible odds. In short, this one is for picture book lovers of every age and preference.
Whatever you do, PLEASE add this book to your school or church library, your Social Studies, History or Citizenship classroom, and of course, your personal library. You’ll be glad you did.
Best wishes and happy mothering,