written by Jessica Young, illustrated by Rafael Lopez, Little Brown, 2021
I think I would buy any book illustrated by Rafael Lopez. We have read and re-read his collaborations with Margarita Engle, Dancing Hands and Drum Dream Girl (reviewed together here), and we adore his semi-autobiographical Maybe Something Beautiful (also reviewed). He’s also illuminating and inspiring when he writes about his creative processes – I love this article about how he developed the ideas to illustrate Dancing Hands and bring ‘the Piano Girl’, Teresa Carreno, to children.
The cover illustration and title drew me immediately to I’ll Meet You in Your Dreams, with Lopez’ characteristic luminous, loving art work. As with many books that are visually beautiful and emotionally beautiful, this book made me tear-up the first few times through. Now, I have a lump in my throat, but I’m ready to keep reading.
With lyrical words and gorgeous pictures, we follow two pairs, parent and child, from babies, to childhood, adulthood, through a world of adventure and imagination and loving care. It’s a song of love, and aspiration, and letting go. After a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions, of staying at home and trying to keeping everyone healthy and happy, I want to be that parent: Adventures wait for you and me. When so much parenting is trying to get them to eat their five-a-day and brush their teeth, the tenderness and sense of exploration, the freedom of this book is exhilarating.
My three-year old daughter loves to read this with me. We feed each other ‘sips of nectar tea’ on a finger; she’ll be the knight, I’ll be the horse. As the child grows, the adventure continues, but after a time, the child starts to venture alone, away from the parent, and back again. The line ‘you’ll be you and I’ll be me./ You’ll travel places I can’t see –’ catches at my heart every time. Because I do want them to travel, spread their wings and soar independently. I say to them, Mummy’s doing it for you just until you can do it for yourself. But in truth, I want to go too, and I know that I can’t. They will go to places I can’t see, it’s right that they do. And I want it for them. But when they’re so little still, it tugs. As the book says ‘as you grow, I’ll be with you,/for every step, your whole life through.’ (Yes, I’m almost crying.)
I haven’t yet read this with my son. He’s seven, and he’ll listen in when I’m reading with his sister. But I want to sit and read it just with him. My dear friend and guest blogger, Victoria, wrote recently about All the World, and titled it ‘what I’m desperate for my children to know’. She’s right. Sometimes we read these books because we want our children to know these powerful things that we don’t know how to say. We can explore together, we can share the world, and however far you venture, wherever you go, you can always come home to my love.
I need to sit down and read this with him.