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Love You Forever

by Robert Munsch


Love You Forever explores a number of serious subjects including love, gender roles, and the circle of life and death.

A mother’s love for her son continues as he goes through the stages of life. Every night his mother sings her song to him while rocking him. Even after the boy has grown into a man, his mother drives across town to hold him in her arms and sing. The mother eventually becomes too old and sick to carry on with this tradition. In turn, the man then drives across town, holds his mother in his arms and sings the song to her. As the man returns home, he goes to his daughter’s room and continues the tradition.

Read aloud video by Ms. CeCe

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion


Love You Forever presents the unconditional love that parents are expected to have for their children, despite the behavior of those children as they grow up. The love that a parent has for a child is an unrestricted love that never falters. In the book, the mother is stressed by the behavior of the son, but still continues to crawl into his room at night, hold him in her arms, and sing to him. This parental love is often the first and most important love a person will ever experience. When developing future relationships, a person is able to understand and reciprocate love to others because of the love that has first been introduced by their parents. As a person matures from adolescence to adulthood, they begin to understand the importance of displaying affection and reciprocating love. Children who do not experience love can have a hard time displaying and reciprocating love for another. When the mother becomes elderly and sick, her son who is now an adult returns this love by tending and singing to her. A child who experiences love through a parental figure will be more likely to pass this on to their children. This reciprocation of love is important in allowing love to continue to exist. When the man becomes a father, he shows his love for his daughter by singing the same song his mother sang to him.

Happiness and Fulfillment

For a person to be fulfilled in life they have to achieve happiness. Happiness is the ultimate means in itself; it is the one thing that people universally strive towards. Love above all holds the most intrinsic value, and without love we cannot be fulfilled and achieve happiness. The ability of the father to display his affection to his mother and his daughter represent the happiness and fulfillment in his life.

Gender Stereotypes

The original mother-son relationship in the book follows the stereotypes set in place by society. Women are seen to take on a more nurturing role, and men are seen to be less affectionate. This stereotype is then juxtaposed by the nurturing relationship of a father to his daughter. This role reversal demonstrates that affection is not something defined by a person’s gender. The love that the son has for his mother is not absent while he grows, but is something he does not display as well when he is an adolescent. It is important to understand that gender should not define our ability to love and show affection. This is something particularly important to instill in young children.

The Circle Of Life

Apart from discussing the value of love and the intrinsic means of happiness, Love You Forever also delves into the deeper concept of the circle of life culminates in death. The story explores not only the young boy’s life but also the mother’s and her journey through aging. It is understandable that many of the children reading this story will not recognize the fact that the mom did indeed pass on; and if they do, it is likely that they will not identify exactly what that means. This is an important part of the story that should be discussed with the child to gain a more thorough understanding of the book’s lesson. It is important for the children to realize that death is a part of the circle of life; it is not always something dark and something to be feared but rather, if happening in a timely fashion, something that one can embrace. We can help the child appreciate this concept more by examining the character of the mother. She lived a life of fulfillment and happiness, raising her son to be respectful and in turn a great father. She was able to pass on the greatest knowledge of how to love; and this love was then reciprocated onto her. Her death is something to be celebrated; not only did she lead a long and happy life, but it is through her that the circle of life was able to continue and grow in a respectful and loving way. Death is something that young children, in perhaps a more delicate form, need to be made aware of. Love You Forever is a perfect example of how this can be done.

This book is enjoyed by many adults and children, and it can raise a lot of emotion in readers. It can be used as a tool to address some very basic yet powerful concepts. Love You Forever describes the importance of love and the reciprocity of love and its need for fulfillment and happiness. Gender roles are addressed, and it even brings about the topic of death and the life cycle. This book can be used as a tool to provoke some very important and essential questions to children. The questions are brought about to help children think about love in their life, what love really, is and the reciprocity of love. It helps children to question the stereotypes that society holds about girls and boys. It even addresses the very serious topic of death and helps children to understand what it really means to die.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion


  1. How do your parents show they love you?
  2. Why does the mother love the boy, and what does the mother get in return?
  3. Why is a mother’s love selfless when it comes to her child?
  4. Do you think the boy is being selfish by not telling his mother he loves her?
  5. Can you be angry with someone and still love them?
  6. How do you show your parents you love them?
  7. Why did the mother always love her son?
  8. Do you think the boy loved the mother but was just too embarrassed to say?
  9. Why are we embarrassed to tell someone we love them?
  10. Why did the boy not show his love for his mother until he was older?
  11. Do you need to have a reason to love someone?

Gender Roles

  1. Do you think the story would be different if it was a father instead of a mother?
  2. Do you think the story would be different if it was a girl instead of boy?
  3. What do you notice about the ending of the book about the parent and child?
  4. Do you think the man is less affectionate to his daughter than his mother was to him?
  5. Do you think the daughter will have similar behavior than the man had while growing up?
  6. Is it okay for girls to say “I love you”?
  7. Is it okay for boys to say “I love you”?

Happiness and Fulfillment

  1. What makes you happy?
  2. Would you be happy if you were the mother?
  3. Do you need other people to be happy?
  4. Does telling someone you love them make you happy, and does it make them happy?
  5. Does knowing that someone loves you make you happy?

Life and Death

  1. What is it that makes a fulfilled life?
  2. Why did the mother get sick at the end of the story? What happens next?
  3. What does it mean to pass on?
  4. What does it mean when someone says the “circle of life”?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion archived here. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.

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Back to All Books Cover image for Love You Forever with a detailed illustration of a toddler in a red tank top in the middle of a domestic bathroom. The toddler is smiling and is seated amongst a huge mess of toilet paper, bathroom supplies and other sorts of trash. The toddler is about to drop a wristwatch into the toilet. Download & Print Email Book Module

About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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