When I was a little girl, I loved Mother's Day. I would make a card, cook breakfast and give my mother a rose plant. I have three sisters, and we would jockey for the right to give Mom the "surprise." I look back on those days and wonder how she acted surprised when we gave her the same darn present every single year. That's the thing about mothers--they have the unique ability to enjoy any little crumb left by their offspring, even when it is the same yellow peace rose bush from Kmart. Mother's Day books are favorites of mine now that I am a mother of young adults. They bring me back to the 200th time I read Margaret Wise Brown's Runaway Bunny. The picture books below might be the perfect thing for a young mother--on her way to a lifetime of crayoned cards and Kmart roses, if she's lucky.
Leonid Gore's Mommy, Where Are You? has all the hallmarks of a book that will be read over and over again. Little Ozzy mouse wakes up and his mother isn't there. He spends the rest of the book searching for her. This clever hide-and-seek book will keep young children guessing. Ozzy keeps thinking he sees his mother, but the turn of the page reveals something completely different. We think we see the little tail behind the rock only to discover that it is really an earthworm. That eye that looks like Mommy turns out to belong to a bunny. After a search that reduces Ozzy to hollering, he finally finds her, which will be a relief to young readers. For the very youngest listener, this, like a hearty game of peek-a-boo, does not disappoint.
Another offering for the very young, Please Pick Me Up, Mama! by Robin Luebs celebrates one universal behavior of toddlers. Sloppy kisses? No. Crying when frustrated? No. Wanting to be carried and then asking to be put down? Bingo! Told in short rhyming couplets, the story follows a day in the life of an adorable raccoon. From the first kiss of the day to the last whispered words of good night, we also see one dedicated and patient mother. A perfect night-night book.
Kate Feiffer and Diane Goode team up in a decidedly less sweet, but still pleasing book about motherly (and fatherly) behavior in My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life. Elementary school children will certainly identify with the embarrassing things her mother does to make her life miserable: Kissing her in public. Delivering clothes to her classroom. Talking loudly. Banning junk food. Worrying. This mother is guilty of all of them. The little girl imagines a scheme where her parents ultimately end up in jail because they are ruining her life. Goode's comedic illustrations are the perfect foil for this over-the-top fantasy. The expressions on the little girl's face tell the whole story of embarrassment and eventually, love and appreciation.
If you know someone who wants a more thoughtful, even spiritual celebration of the wisdom of mothers, Mama Says: A Book of Love for Mothers and Sons by Rob D. Walker, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, might fit the bill. The Dillons' signature watercolors accompany the text, written in English and 12 other languages from around the world. Readers of all ages will reflect on the serious words from many mothers' mouths. The translations, often in different alphabets, are a beauty to see as well. The afterword adds detail about the languages for any child whose curiosity has been stirred. From the Cherokee: "Mama says / Be good / Mama says / Be kind / Mama says / The rain will come / But still the sun will shine." These gentle words accompany illustrations that show mothers watching their sons follow the maternal advice. At the end, we have the words of a Danish mother: "Mama says / Help others / And be the best you can." Turn the page to see a lovely spread of the grown men who say, "I listened to what Mama said / And now I am a man." The world over, mothers have a lot to say about being good and generous and loving. This gentle tribute to these universal truths will be treasured by mothers everywhere.
Robin Smith lives in Nashville where she tries to ruin the lives of her grown children in Brooklyn and Palo Alto from afar.