Real Love is a collection of captioned drawings John Lennon made for his young son when Sean was learning to hold a crayon. They are wonderfully magical and funny. Each picture, or group of pictures, is a story, from a “pecking order” of graduated emu-looking birds to “a duck”–big fat yellow floater with a green bill like a puffin’s–and a “duck ducking”–same guy, head buried beneath the waves, tail and purple feet dangling in mid-air.
There’s “a hippotato,” a brown baked-potato blob with a suggestion of bristles, a tiny grin and a dot for an eye, sitting on a blue plate next to a large white napkin and some cutlery on a rolling hillside in a checkerboard of green grass that might just be a tablecloth. Blue plate special? ”Sheep meadowing” are just standing around looking fluffy in a meadow while a few that might or might not be clouds are jumping across the sky like an image of counting sheep. Sheep’s Meadow is a famous open field in Central Park not far from where the Lennons lived–a good place to play on a nice day and, long ago, a real meadow for grazing sheep.
“The camel dances and having danced moves on” features a blue camel, a purple pyramid, a bright yellow sun and a pretty good palm tree. And a brilliant sunset–or is it pollution?–turns a city skyline orange as a friendly pigeon with a letter in its beak is captured in “pigeon homing.” Elephants forget, turtles win by a hare and a very green frog sits next to a pond in a field full of flowers as the sun slips lower behind the hills in “a frog pondering.”
The drawings are childlike, similar to the style in Harold and the Purple Crayon but in vivid color on mostly white backgrounds. They are charming, and a bit sophisticated for a little kid. Those must have been delightful artists’ ateliers, producing work that would hold up over time as Sean Lennon developed his own wit and imagination.
Real Love is fun to peruse and would be even more fun to share with a child. It’s ideas could certainly serve as the spark for picture-and-story-making with a whole paintbox and a serious case of the giggles. The small book is a reminder of the mind and spirit of an artist lost too soon. John Lennon was a true bard with a facility for turning ideas into music and even visuals. The ideas–quirky, curious, disarmingly simple, and profound–were the real magic at the heart of every song, every bright scribble and every story.
Real Love: The Drawings for Sean John Lennon | Random House 1999