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Growing Reader

My Heart:
An Ode to Ever-Changing Emotions

by Jennifer Garry


Our hearts (and, by extension, our feelings) are tricky, fickle little buggers that can be difficult to understand. I mean, throughout the course of a given day, I can go through highs and lows and murky middles that I can’t quite figure out. If it’s challenging for adults to understand them, imagine how impossible it seems for children to decipher continuous waves of big emotions.

Food shopping with Mom is the worst. I’ve never been so bored.
YES! Mom bought me that ice cream cone I was begging for!
It’s so sweet and delicious. This must be what heaven tastes like.
Oh no, I dropped it! The world is ending.
Mom gives the
best hugs.

In just a few short minutes, kids can cycle from blissfully ecstatic to utterly heartbroken and back again. No wonder they throw earth-shattering tantrums — it often feels like their world is splitting apart at the seams.

Corinna Luyken’s gorgeous, lyrical picture book My Heart is a great primer on love and emotions that’s sure to be comforting to readers of all ages. Like her previous title, The Book of Mistakes, it tackles big ideas in a simple, relatable way.

Luyken depicts matters of the heart as things that ebb and flow, rather than being solid and stagnant. The effect is a soothing reassurance that while your feelings can change from moment to moment, you are ultimately in charge. Love and emotions do not look any one way. They show up in different ways, for better or for worse, and seeing that range can help kids feel understood while also creating powerful connections between them and others. (You feel that way? Huh. I feel that way, too.)

The text is a beautiful, rhythmic poem that focuses on ever-changing emotions: “My heart is a window. My heart is a slide. My heart can be closed…or opened up wide.” Alongside these simple but powerful sentences are equally powerful illustrations that enforce the idea of a rollercoaster of feelings.

Illustrated mostly in black, white, and grey, the book also features a golden, sunshine yellow that doubles as a ray of hope. It illuminates the darkness and adds a glowing undercurrent of optimism — lightness is never more than a page away. Hearts are also everywhere: in plants and stars, shadows and stains, gently reminding little readers of their presence in so many different forms.


The book ends with this sentence: “My heart is a shadow, a light, and a guide. Closed or open…I get to decide.”

Empowering readers with the idea of having control over their feelings, My Heart also encourages empathy. If we can recognize the ups and downs of our own hearts, it can be easier to recognize the same in others.

With messages of love, resilience, and self-acceptance, this uplifting book is a must-have for any bookshelf. I’ve already bought multiple copies to gift to new moms in hopes of encouraging them to be kind to themselves, long before their little ones are old enough to soak up the book’s message.