Mother’s Day (or Mothers’ Day, if you have more than one) is the aw-shucks holiday of choice for young children. Teachers go crazy with big colorful cards, painted flowerpots and handprints pressed onto everything that is not nailed down. And the books! Around February, books about mothers start arriving and this year is no exception. Don’t miss these particularly stellar offerings celebrating mothers and their families.
NO ONE LIKE MOM
In the sweet department, we have There’s No One I Love Like You by Jutta Langreuter and illustrated by Stephanie Dahle. Brayden Bunny loves his mom but bristles at some of her rules. When she lets him know it's time to get out of bed, he wishes aloud that he could go and live with his friends. His mother overhears, and soon Brayden tries living at a number of his friends’ houses. Missy Mouse’s house is fun—but messy. The Badger family smells of unwashed badgers. The Squirrel family lives so high up that Brayden instantly knows it will not work out. He loves being with Auntie Grace, but still . . . something is not right. What is missing? Of course, it’s Mommy Bunny’s big hug and her special way of scratching his ears. Dahle’s sweet watercolors, filled with the kinds of details that will invite young readers to slow down and explore, elevate this story beyond the expected. On one spread, the text page is framed with daisy fabric which careful observers will see again on the opposite page as the rug under Brayden’s bed. Lettuce lamps adorn the living room, and Easter eggs hang from the children’s room. This charmer is sure to become a family favorite.
A CLASSIC LULLABY
More sophisticated, but no less loving, is Sean Qualls’ treatment of Langston Hughes’ poem Lullaby (For a Black Mother). Collage and watercolor play well together here, inviting little ones to sleep while introducing them to the poetry of Langston Hughes. Qualls’ palette is calm and filled with overlapping circles, mirroring the repeating nature of the poem itself. The mother is front and center, wearing her lace dress, collaged with words from books. She is always looking right at her beloved diaper-clad baby, which is just where children expect their mother's gaze to fall. I especially loved the winding musical notes with the chubby baby singing in delight. The repeating words, displayed in a pleasing, stylized large font, will invite older brothers and sisters to read right along with baby—always a plus!
MOMS IN THE MILITARY
When I saw Melinda Hardin's Hero Mom, I thought, “Finally, someone has written about mothers in the military.” Magazines and newspapers have been running stories about women in combat, but there has been little to offer for children, who are impacted so much. In this companion book to her earlier Hero Dad, Hardin addresses the issue through the straightforward voice of children. Without much fanfare, the children talk about their mothers as superheroes. Six children, holding six photographs of moms in uniforms, are the narrators of this winning book. The moms fly planes, build buildings, fix and drive trucks, aid the injured and lead a battalion. We see the modern face of the army where moms video chat with their children, taking a little of the pain out of deployment. The children and mothers are painted wearing their uniforms, and both the soldiers and their children are from no particular ethnic group, making this universally appealing. Simple. Direct. Honest. Just like these soldiers.
GIFTS FOR HER SPECIAL DAY
A funny take on Mother’s Day will keep the youngest listeners chuckling and making up their own ideas about What Not to Give Your Mom On Mother’s Day. Martha Simpson and illustrator Jana Christy introduce a sassy little boy with red rainboots and hands on his hips who's ready to let the reader know what Mom does not want for her big day. The fun starts with “Do NOT give her a bucket of big, fat worms . . . unless she is a bird.” The pages that follow are a recitation of a number of items that would work just fine for a dog or spider or salamander with hilarious mixed media illustrations. The mother can hardly contain her glee and later, horror, as her little boy suggests more and more unexpected gifts. Little ones will treat this book as a riddle book, and parents will enjoy making them guess at the punchline on each page. Just hope your children don’t bring you a bucketful of mosquitoes . . . unless you are a bat!
DON'T MESS WITH MOM
The world’s most protective squirrel lives in a heart-shaped hole in the city in David Ezra Stein’s newest offering, Ol’ Mama Squirrel. With a loud “Chook! Chook! Chook!” she lets any creature know that she will protect her babies. It’s hard not to laugh when Stein draws Mama with so many menacing faces and stances, her little arm raised in a fist to scold a dog that got too close or let an airplane know who’s in charge. It's as if she is channeling the classic old man chasing kids off his lawn, only funnier. Readers will see Mama from multiple perspectives, demonstrating that she is always on the job. When one HUGE grizzly bear tries to move in on Mama’s territory, it looks like she might have finally met her match. The babies’ eyes, poking out of their hole, show terror, but Mama knows just what to do. When all the mama squirrels get together to beat back the interloper, the little ones will know for sure that they are always safe as long as their mother is there to protect them! Ink, watercolors and crayons come together in a loose, energetic style, and I know I will never look at squirrels at the park quite the same way again! Chook! Chook! Chook!