Remember the “I’ll Love You Forever” Book? The Real Meaning Will Rip Your Heart Out

love you forever

Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever book was published once upon a 1986, but its legacy lives on even today.

As a kindergartner, I remember sitting cross-legged and staring doe-eyed at my teacher, Mrs. Duff, as she read that Love You Forever book to us over and over during story time. You’d think it would eventually get old, but our whole class sat in a circle just as mesmerized by the tale each time it was read as though it was the first time our ears heard those memorable words that made our eyes well up with tears. You’ve probably heard at least one of the love you forever book quotes, such as:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

What’s the Love You Forever book basically about?

If you haven’t read the Love You Forever book, in summary, the story chronicles the life of a mother and son as the boy grows up. Through the sleepless nights as an infant to his ‘terrible two’s‘ and his pre-teen years where mom wanted to “sell him to the zoo,” she still loved him fearlessly and unconditionally, always ending the night with the same song as she rocked her boy to bed…

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

As the boy grows older and leaves home to start his own family, his mother occasionally sneaks into his bedroom to rock her grown man with her customary lullaby. (In hindsight, as an adult, that part sounds a tad creepier than it did when I was five, but the moral of the story is still undeniably sweet.)

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Eventually in the love you forever book, his mom grows old and very sick and she calls her son over to sing the song to him, but she could only make it halfway through. Knowing that she wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer, he began rocking her in his arms, singing the lullaby full of love that had carried him through his largely defiant life. Afterward, he went home saddened but found new hope in rocking his own baby girl to sleep with the same heartfelt words that would forever carry on his mother’s legacy.

What’s the Love You Forever book really about?

Though the message in this story and the song seems pretty clear, it’s probably not about what you think. It is actually inspired by the author’s two stillborn babies…thus the “my baby you’ll be” part.

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Munsch shared this statement on his website:

I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and I couldn’t even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing.

For a long time it was just a song, but one day, while telling stories at a big theatre at the University of Guelph, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a story around the song.

Out popped Love You Forever, pretty much the way it is in the book.

Wow. It’s amazing that this explanation coming out 30 years later can totally alter the meaning of this book. Yet in a sense, it’s all the same—perhaps that’s why this timeless tale has lived on.

On the face of it, the story seems to be about a mom who who will never stop loving her son as big as he grows or as long as he lives, but really, it’s the same for stillborn babies and miscarriages. Just because they were taken to heaven early, doesn’t mean their parents’ love died along with their flesh. In the same way, they will be loved forever, long after they’re gone.

So for the big boys, the baby girls and the little angels in heaven, this tune will remain forever true:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Now, those are 18 beautiful words worth remembering for always. ❤

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Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.