Reviews /

That’s Nice, Love

Authored by Owen Gent
Illustrated by Owen Gent
Published by Book Island

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Countless studies have shown that overuse of mobile devices impairs the development of parent-child relationships. It’s not a statement that many of us will be surprised by. If anything, it you are a parent like me, you will feel a pang of shame at how true it rings. But despite knowing the facts, many parents still can’t quite break free of the tractor beam of emails and social media that pulls them back to a screen again and again. Perhaps it is a book like That’s Nice, Love, that shows the impact of this in such a moving way, that can finally bring the message home.

This beautiful picture book by Owen Gent tells the tale of a young child who goes for a day at the park with their father. The child climbs a tree and embarks on a series of imaginative adventures, some frightful, some fanciful, but all fantastical. Like any excited child, they yell down updates to their dad but, too busy on his phone to look up, the adult repeatedly responds with a dismissive ‘That’s nice, love’.

The book immediately reminds the reader of Not Now, Bernard, in which we see a similarly fobbed-off child. However, there are two key differences with the McKee classic. Firstly, the parental phrase ‘That’s nice, love’, is far kindlier than the dismissive ‘Not Now, Bernard’. This points to the fact that the parent is not being brusque, they perhaps don’t even realise how absent they are being. This is emphasised by the second difference, the ending. While Bernard ends with the eponymous character being eaten by/turning into a monster, That’s Nice, Love wraps up far more hopefully, with the child gently confronting the parent and the adult being shocked at their own neglectful behaviour, promising to do better in the future; it’s a touching reconciliation.

The story is powerful in its simplicity and this is matched by Gent’s beautiful art. All deep colours and sweeping lines, it brings to mind a depth, warmth, and vibrancy that gives the summer day in the park further beauty that the parent is missing.

This would be a really powerful book to read with children of any age, asking them if they can relate to the situations shown. This could work best if read with parents, perhaps at a workshop.

That’s Nice, Love is a real triumph that can bring home the important message of remembering to look up, to the notice what is important and to be present in an increasingly digital age.

Read for Empathy Collection 2023

This collection is available from our bookselling partner Best Books for Schools