Name of Book: Papa, Do You Love Me?
Author: Barbara M. Joosse
Illustrator: Barbara Lavallee
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Audience: 3-8 yrs
Summary: A young Maasai boy explores the depths of his Papa’s love through the questions of a small child, and the reassurances of his father. This story introduces children to another culture, another land, and situations that they may not be familiar with, through the familiarity of the parent-child bond. The father promises young Tender Heart that he will protect him, help him learn to find water, and to do the other things he needs to do to survive in the Serengeti. Tender Heart also explores what would happen if he failed at his task, and finds reassurance from his father that even though a parent may be angry, they still love and forgive.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a picture book, beautifully illustrated in warm desert tones. For very young children, it gives a simple reassurance that parents will love, comfort, and protect. For older children, it can also be a window into a culture and place they may not know. The glossary at the end of the book can help them to learn more about the Maasai culture and the animals and landscape of this area in Africa. The story is told in the format of a conversation between Tender Heart and his Papa. The child asks questions, and the father answers them gently and with concrete examples of his care and love.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The setting of this story is integral to the plot. By using names, places, animals, and items of the Maasai culture, children are transported to another place entirely. On the other hand, the familiar experience of a parent-child conversation makes this other culture accessible to children and adults alike. We are able to see that in spite of differences, our relationships to each other are a common bond.
Theological Conversation Partners: The unconditional love of the father in this story can lead to some good conversations about God. Even though earthly parents cannot show love, acceptance and protection perfectly, God’s love is much like the love of this Papa – never failing, always forgiving, and always near.
Faith Talk Questions
- How does Tender Heart know that his father loves him?
- Tender Heart’s father teaches him to look for water, and to stay awake at night to protect the herd. What are some of the ways parents teach you?
- What might make Tender Heart’s father angry? Does that change his love? Why or why not?
- What are some ways that you know a parent or guardian cares for you?
Thanks to Edye Bender, Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna, for writing the book review this week.
Papa, Do You Love Me? by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.