Here's to Mom! Moms and Kids in Children's Literature
Here’s to Mom! Moms and Kids in Children’s Literature
Moms everywhere roll their eyes as they talk about mothers in animated films. A vast majority of the time, as we all know, Mama is a goner. Whether it’s the tragic Finding Nemo moment in which Mom dies before the opening credits, or the fairytale stories in which Mom is a distant memory before the movie even begins, Mom is a non-presence who matters only in her absence.
The good news is, moms in children’s literature fair better! Not always, of course, but usually. Even Bambi’s mother lives a whole lot longer in the book than in the film! And in times when Mom isn’t there, there is often a mother figure to provide the motherly love.
Just in Time for Mother’s Day
In honor of Mother’s Day, here are some wonderful books to celebrate moms and their kids. Read some with your students and suggest some for them to check out from the library to read with their moms. Then, let them make their own Mom and Me picture books (illustrated or with photographs) that tell a special story of the child and his or her mother. It’s a great learning opportunity and a great gift for moms, too!
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman (ages 3 and up): The classic story of a sweet baby bird looking for his true mother, this book and its funny illustrations have delighted young readers since 1960.
I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt (ages 3 and up): Get ready to giggle as a little boy makes up extreme ways to challenge his mother’s love, and to find there’s just no shaking it!
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (ages 3 and up): Will Sal and an adorable bear cub get their fill of blueberries and then go home with their own mothers? The story and illustrations are both charming and sweet in this classic tale from 1948.
Hush, Little Baby illustrated by Chad Thompson (ages 3 and up): This newly illustrated version of the classic song is designed especially for developing readers, who will enjoy the humorous illustrations that accompany the text about a mother’s love for her child.
Animal Mothers and Babies by Dona Herweck Rice (ages 4-8): The adorable photographs and text leveled for emergent readers are what make this nonfiction text perfect for young children and budding zoologists. (Disclaimer! The book was written by yours truly.)
Before I Was Your Mother by Kathryn Lasky (ages 4-8): Was Mom ever anything but Mom? The question is answered in this sweet story of a mother’s life while a young girl, shared between mother and daughter.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams (ages 4-8): A Caldecott Honor Book first published in 1982, this book beautifully conveys the love and familial warmth among mother and daughter and grandmother, all working to buy a new easy chair for Mom after the family’s possessions are lost in a fire.
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow (ages 4-8): Half the fun of the delightful book is in the imaginative illustrations from Maurice Sendak, which perfectly accompany the quirky and fanciful story of a young girl searching for the ideal present for her mother, and getting help from a giant and kindly talking rabbit in the process.
M.O.M. (Mom Operating Manual) by Doreen Cronin (ages 4-8): Kids and moms alike will giggle at this very funny and playful manual of M.O.M. and her complex—but wonderful—operating system! There’s something new and fun on every page.
Weird Parents by Audrey Wood (ages 5 and up): Every kid at some point thinks his or her parents are just plain weird, and this oddball story plays on that shared experience—while also revealing the love and joy behind it all. It’s a celebration of moms and dads alike, and what it means to be a family.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (ages 8 and up): The story of August, a fifth-grader born with severe facial deformities, his journey to find himself among his classmates, and the deep and real mother love that encourages, pushes, comforts, worries, praises, and holds her precious kid always in her heart as a true wonder.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (ages 8 and up): Wilbur, the little runt pig saved by Fern, is saved again and forever by the heroic, inspiring, and motherly love of Charlotte, the most prolific spider of all time. There’s a reason why this lovely story is a classic.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (ages 9 and up): But Harry’s mother is dead, right? She’s there with him at every turn, from Harry’s eyes just like hers to the deep love that makes him “the boy who lived.” There would be no Harry Potter—either real or in spirit—without Lily and her mother love. And who can forget Molly Weasley, too!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (ages 9 and up): Perhaps one of literature’s best portrayed mothers, Marmee gives her daughters unconditional love, wise council, strong spirits, and joy in life, no matter the conditions.
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt (ages 12 and up): Abandoned by their mentally ill mother, the Tillerman children make their way to their unknown grandmother, Abigail, looking to find a home. Through the story, it’s clear in many ways that Abigail needs their “homecoming” just as much as the children do.
What are your favorite books depicting mothers and children? Let us know!