Feelings and emotions are such difficult things to understand. Even as a grown-up I realize that I am learning more every day about myself and how my body works. And thankfully, beautiful picture books continue to be made that help inform and also delight by meeting questions with beautiful ways of answering. Have you ever wondered why we cry? Well, I can now say, there’s a really fantastic book for that! Take a peek at Why Do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera, illustrated by Ana Sender, published in Spain in 2018, and translated to English in 2020.
When I first saw this book cover, I thought it looked beautiful. But I was hesitant to be excited about it until I read it. While I judged the cover as stunning and intriguing, I also judged that it would probably be informative and too sciency. Now, there is nothing directly wrong with those things, especially in a book. But I tend to prefer narratives and stories and characters much more than straight facts. And thankfully, I prejudged this book incorrectly.
It opens in a lovely park of green with a mother and son (Mario) sitting on a bench – well, Mario is sort of sitting, but in a perfectly thoughtful, curious way. We’re told Mario had been quiet all morning, and he now finally had formed his question. He asks, “Mom, why do we cry?”
The mother thinks for a moment and then begins to answer. And with that, the book and the mother take us along on an immensely descriptive, thoughtfully full, and achingly beautiful list of the myriad of reasons why we cry.
While her words could be simple and straight-forward; they are immensely deep and filled with word pictures. She gives descriptions of the many reasons with incredibly poetic adjectives and images. She describes sadness as difficult to contain, and trying to understand the world as searching for answers; about the need for touch feeling like an echo when it is unfulfilled, and the struggle to keep things locked inside until they find a way to escape. And so many more reasons.
But there is more than just the words to this book, perfectly chosen by Fran Pintadera as they were. The words and word pictures are lovely, but Ana Sender’s art carries the story even deeper. It grabs your imagination as you listen to the words and it unfolds masterpieces of images exploding with emotion. With the page turns, the mother who is telling the explanations, is telling them from her perspective as a child. She is shown as not just the one explaining crying; but she is clearly remembering being a child and all the ways she felt when she cried.
I love each page so much; but perhaps shockingly and more importantly, I adore the overall tone, feeling, and description here about why we cry. There is no hint of shame, babyishness, or hiding tears. It is a full embrace of the reality, validity, and need for crying – whether there really is a reason we can explain or not.
I began to hold my breath and smile as I read this through the first time. But I also greatly wondered where it was going. How would it bring us full circle, back to Mario and his mother and leaving with some joy even? Is that too much to ask of a book about crying? But oh, it wasn’t too much to ask. It doesn’t tie it all up in a pretty bow, but instead ends on the most surprising reason for our crying – happiness.
And just in case you want just a little more than a beautiful conversation from this book, it delivers that too with a helpful, informative, fact-filled spread in the back about what exactly tears are: their kinds, shapes, ingredients, and even some activities to do. It is the perfect addition in my opinion.
I am truly delighted by this book. It will now become a new favorite recommendation. It has already been helpful in a conversation in our home, and I continue to read it again and again to remind myself of beautiful ways to describe something that we rarely can control, we so often experience, and we should not fear.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why we cry, and perhaps you should… go pick up this book to ponder, learn, and feel along.