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Picture Book Mothers


When writing for children we are cautioned to keep the parents out, or on the perimeters. But what about picture books?

The spectrum of picture books covers a wide age group. Mothers are usually the most important figure in a young child’s life, and so it’s not surprising that they play a big part in stories for very young children. But as the child becomes older and begins to take on some independence, the mother in picture books becomes less prominent. Still, they need to be present at times to provide reassurance, guidance, protection or for other various reasons.

With Mother’s Day coming close, I thought I would share some picture books about mothers or that have mothers in them.

MY MOTHER IS MINE by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Peter Elwell, Simon & Schuster 2001.
Told in first person from the viewpoint of a child, this book is told in rhyme. It begins: “My mother is soft./ My mother is strong./ My mother watches me/ long and long.” Soft illustrations match the gentle text. Written for ages 1 to 5, this book is all about mothers and things that make them special to their children.

LLAMA LLAMA HOME WITH MAMA, written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney, Viking 2011.
This is another picture book told in rhyme, which makes it appealing to young children and helps develop language. It begins “Llama Llama, morning light./ Feeling yucky, just not right.” Mama is very present in the illustrations, giving comfort to little llama who is sick and stays home from school. In the scenes where Mama is not there, you know that she is near-by, which is reassuring to readers. A twist at the end puts little llama in charge, doing things that she learns from her own mother’s actions.

BEDTIME FOR MOMMY by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Bloomsbury 2010.
This is a twist on bedtime, with the child getting mommy off to bed instead of the other way around. “Time for bed, Mommy! (the little girl says). Five more minutes? (says Mommy). Okay—five minutes, but that’s it.” And so on, until Mommy is finally tucked into bed. Mother is still a big part of the story, but the child is now in charge, and imitates what she’s learned from her mother.

MUD PUDDLE by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sami Suomalainen, Annick Press 1982/1985.
In this book the main character, Julie Ann, is most prominent. She solves the problem without any help from her mother. Her mother is in the story only as necessary. “Mummy, Mummy! A Mud Puddle jumped on me.” (says Julie Ann). “Her mother picked her up…She washed out her ears. She washed out her eyes. She even washed out her mouth.” In this story, Julie Ann, and the readers, know that her mother will be there if she needs her. Her mother does not scold Julie Ann for getting muddy. In fact, there is no dialogue at all for her mother. She only enters the story at Julie Ann’s calling.

TESSA’S TIP-TAPPING TOES by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Marsha Gray Carrington, Orchard Books 2002.
Tessa, a mouse, prefers to dance in Mrs. Timboni’s kitchen at night instead of joining in while her family raids it for crumbs. Mrs. Timboni has a new cat, Oscar, who loves to sing. “As soon as Tessa’s mother heard Oscar’s crooning, she worried that the new cat would catch her dancing daughter.” And on the next page, “Mrs. Timboni worried that (the neighbors) would ask her to get rid of her chorusing kitty.” What happens when Tessa and Oscar meet in the kitchen one night changes everything. The reader, of course, knows that mice and cats are not good company, and will worry along with the mothers, about Tessa and Oscar. In this funny book the mothers provide the tension by pointing out danger and trouble that could result from their children’s actions. But the story is driven by Tessa and Oscar. And the twist at the end will have readers dancing and singing along.

A MOTHER FOR CHOCO, written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza, G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1992.
This is one of my favorite books about mothers. To me, this was a book about adoption, but it is for stepmothers or foster parents as well. It begins “Choco was a little bird, who lived all alone. He wished he had a mother, but who could his mother be? One day he set off to find her.” A lovely story about all kinds of mothers, and about acceptance of those with differences.

Here are a few books that include grandmothers as well.

OFF WE GO! by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Laurel Molk, Little, Brown & Company 2000.
“Tip-toe, tippity toe,/ Over the leaves and down below,/ Off to Grandma’s house we go,/ Sings Little Mouse.” In this book, told in verse, young animals leave their homes to go to Grandma’s house. Mothers are absent in the story, but the reader is caught in the excitement of going to Grandma’s house, which makes them feel safe and loved.

DOWN IN THE WOODS AT SLEEPYTIME by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban, Candlewick Press 2000.
Deep in the woods a mama bear, a mama hedgehog, a mama rabbit and a mama toad call out, “It’s sleepytime” to their little ones, who are not quite ready to settle down. Then “Deep down in the woods/ on her branch above them all/ wise Grandma Owl hoots,/ “Whoo-hoo!/ It’s storytime.” As a board book this has all the elements of a good story.

CHERRY PIES AND LULLABIES, written and illustrated by Lynn Reiser, Greenwillow Books 1998.
This is a collection of four stories, each showing something that is done in the childhood times of great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and child. And “Every time/ it was the same/ but different.” A lovely story, bringing generations together. Much is shown in the illustrations.

This is only a taste of the many wonderful picture books showcasing mothers.

Wishing all the mothers out there a fantastic Mother’s Day! May you be blessed with attention from your children during the day, and have time to relax at the end of the day.  Read More 
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