“I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love” is one of many tremendously popular picture books by author and illustrator Nancy Tillman – books which stress the uniqueness of each individual child and how much each individual child is loved. It is a theme that resonates with parent and child alike – an observation supported by the multitude of positive reviews for her work.
We have read several of Ms. Tillman’s stories ourselves, and I think it is safe to say that “I’d Know You Anywhere…” is our favorite. The rhyming prose is narrated by a mother telling her child that no matter how many different animals he might choose to be, she will always be able to recognize him by some unique characteristic that will give him away (the gleam in his eyes, his grin, the way he moves). The book appeals to children on at least two levels that I can see. First, pretending to be an animal is a well-loved pastime for children everywhere; our oldest went through stages where she wanted to be, variously, a dog, a wolf, a deer, or a dinosaur (specifically a “diplodocus”, as I was just reminded). Second, the book reminds young children of the magical connection between themselves and their mother: no matter where you are or how you are disguised, mommy will always be able to find you and will always love you.
The book tends toward the syrupy, which is not my usual preference. However, this book still works for me – for the reasons discussed above and because of the vibrant and playful illustrations, each of which spans two pages. Ms. Tillman’s renderings include a bear cub riding a bicycle, a raccoon caught in a candid moment playing with his feet, a blue-footed booby dancing on the beach, and a giraffe doling out a kiss – and in each painting you can find mom somewhere sporting a splash of red. The artwork facilitates engagement, as you can ask what each of the animals might be thinking, and where mom might be in the picture. Another potentially valuable conversation that the book invites is a discussion of your child’s unique characteristics – personality traits, behaviors, etc. – by which you would be able to recognize him or her when in disguise…or, conversely, what characteristics do your children think you would recognize? For our oldest, a kind heart and a passionate soul would shine through any disguise, and for our youngest it would be an irresistible affection and a mischievous twinkle in her eye that would give her away.