In Memory: Author of “Guess How Much I Love You?”

Have you ever tucked your child in at bedtime with the words "I love you to the moon and back?" That cherished expression is the ending to the children's picture book Guess How Much I Love You, opens a new windowThe celebrated book has been translated into 57 languages and has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

Beloved author Sam McBratney, writer of over one hundred books and scripts for families, passed away on September 18, 2020. He was 77.

Origin of the story

McBratney grew up in Belfast, Ireland, and studied History and Political Science at Trinity College in Dublin. He retired early from teaching at a primary school, grammar school, and college to become a full-time writer.

This lighthearted tale originated at the suggestion of his editor to write a picture book for children. To his surprise, he learned you do not need to be an artist to write a story for children and that authoring a compelling narrative with such few words is quite demanding. He realized the tremendous challenge of crafting a picture book after more than six months of examining the value of every word. 

Guess How Much I Love You? , opens a new windowwas published in 1994. McBratney credits the popularity of the story to several factors:

  • the “simple, direct, and true” words
  • the drawings by illustrator Anita Jeram captured the “gangly awkwardness and boneyness about hares” and the “intimacy between a big one and a wee one”
  • his favorite design elements - the cover with the old-fashioned lettering style and the half-title page. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare look at you as if to say, “We’re off on a journey…Are you coming with us?”

“The joy he felt at knowing so many people around the globe connected with the gentle celebration of unconditional love was ever palpable.”

~Donna Cassanova, Walker Books

RIP Sam McBratney, your treasured books filled with kindness and humor will continue to warm children’s hearts for many, many years to come.

Books by Sam McBratney

MCFL Kids: Guess How Much I Love You

List created by Corte Madera Staff Kids, opens a new window

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Thank you to Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, Corte Madera Branch Manager, for contributing to this post. 


n.a. (2020, September 21). Sam McBratney: author Guess How Much I Love You author dies, opens a new window. BBC News.

n.a. (n.d.) The story: Guess How Much I Love You, opens a new window. [Candlewick Press website]

Blair, Elizabeth. (2020, September 22). Obituaries: Guess How Much I Love You author Sam McBratney dies at 77, opens a new window.

McClements, Freya. (2020, September 21). ‘Guess How Much I Love you’ author Sam McBratney dies aged 77, opens a new window. The Irish Times [online newspaper]

Photo credit The Irish Times, opens a new window, September 21, 2020