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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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Mother/child stories

by Sierra on April 15, 2009 · 16 comments

in parenting

Being a mom in fiction is a rough deal. If you haven’t been killed off to make way for the Evil Stepmother, you’re probably wasting away with illness. Or hopelessly out-of-touch, like Coraline’s mom.  Or, like Eloise’s, simply absent from your child’s life.

There’s a good reason for these tropes. Much great literature for children is focused on the child, and the child’s ability to solve problems for herself, or grow into an adult role. Removing adults, especially mothers, from the story often provides the space and motivation for children to have these adventures. You’ll notice that it’s much more common to be an orphan in literature than it is in real life.

As Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown put it in their excellent book, “Packaging Girlhood,” “As in children’s literature, myths and fairy tales, these books also tend to show parents are useless or dead. Perhaps this is a common concept because mothers are so important to children; however, it also means we rarely see good mothers represented.”

While there are many wonderful stories that focus on children who have been separated from their parents by death, boarding school or a serendipitous fall down a rabbit hole, it’s refreshing to be able to share a tale with one’s daughter that doesn’t fall into these stereotypes.

Flashlight Worthy Books recently posted a lovely list of stories in which children connect with their moms. I’ll be watching for these titles at the library.

Here are a few of my favorites from our home collection:
Tucking Mommy In, by Morag Loh
Little Bear, Elsa Holmelund Minarek
On Mother’s Lap, by Anne Herbert Scott

I note that these are all books for Very Young Children. I wracked my brain a very little bit, and can think of almost no Good Mothers in literature for older kids or young adults. A few of L.M. Montgomery’s books, and Little Women. I hope that as my daughters and I grow through their childhoods, we’ll find many more images of powerful moms to treasure in our library.

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  • Amy

    Here is one we like http://www.peterhreynolds.com/phr_someday.html We actually like lots of Peter Reynolds books. (the Dot, and Ish are current fav’s and I expect we will soon be moving on to Judy Moody)

    [Reply]

  • Amy

    Here is one we like http://www.peterhreynolds.com/phr_someday.html We actually like lots of Peter Reynolds books. (the Dot, and Ish are current fav’s and I expect we will soon be moving on to Judy Moody)

    [Reply]

  • Sarah T

    For little-to-mid-size kids, the mom in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is ultimately the source of dish about life.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    yes. you’re the second person to point that out. I didn’t know until today that people *could* comment on the LJ feed. I need to figure out how to deal with that – the feed is a pretty good method, but clearly not perfect.

    [Reply]

  • Sarah T

    For little-to-mid-size kids, the mom in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is ultimately the source of dish about life.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    yes. you’re the second person to point that out. I didn’t know until today that people *could* comment on the LJ feed. I need to figure out how to deal with that – the feed is a pretty good method, but clearly not perfect.

    [Reply]

  • Ellen

    I note several good comments were posted on the LJ feed, but comments on feeds there go away after two weeks — do you want to include reminders to comment directly on the blog instead?

    [Reply]

  • Ellen

    I note several good comments were posted on the LJ feed, but comments on feeds there go away after two weeks — do you want to include reminders to comment directly on the blog instead?

    [Reply]

  • Cordelia

    Of the list in that Flashlight Books link, I want to very extremely highly recommend _Mama, Do You Love Me?_. No matter how many books I was reading to Gwen when she was a wee bit younger, she always wanted us to finish with that book. Glory is just getting into it. What is great is that it also sneaks in some knowledge of Innuit culture. The edition we have has some pages at the end that explain what things like mukluks are.

    [Reply]

  • Cordelia

    Of the list in that Flashlight Books link, I want to very extremely highly recommend _Mama, Do You Love Me?_. No matter how many books I was reading to Gwen when she was a wee bit younger, she always wanted us to finish with that book. Glory is just getting into it. What is great is that it also sneaks in some knowledge of Innuit culture. The edition we have has some pages at the end that explain what things like mukluks are.

    [Reply]

  • johanna

    for early-teenagers, i recommend the anastasia books by lois lowry. even when anastasia is totally frustrated, her mom is a totally sympathetic character with whom she has a good relationship.

    [Reply]

  • johanna

    for early-teenagers, i recommend the anastasia books by lois lowry. even when anastasia is totally frustrated, her mom is a totally sympathetic character with whom she has a good relationship.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.flashlightworthy.com/ Peter

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I appreciate the thoughtful response to the list. Any chance you’d like to write your own list for Flashlight Worthy? We’re always looking for a new point of view. If you’re interested, drop me a line.

    Peter
    (The guy who came up with Flashlight Worthy)
    http://www.FlashlightWorthyBooks.com
    Recommending books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. ;)

    [Reply]

  • http://www.flashlightworthy.com Peter

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I appreciate the thoughtful response to the list. Any chance you’d like to write your own list for Flashlight Worthy? We’re always looking for a new point of view. If you’re interested, drop me a line.

    Peter
    (The guy who came up with Flashlight Worthy)
    http://www.FlashlightWorthyBooks.com
    Recommending books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. ;)

    [Reply]

  • Kamela

    Madeline L’Engle’s books are pretty good for this; both parents are highly capable and loving role models in the Murry books (A Wrinkle In Time, etc.). Also for the very young set, I love I’ll Love You Forever.

    [Reply]

  • Kamela

    Madeline L’Engle’s books are pretty good for this; both parents are highly capable and loving role models in the Murry books (A Wrinkle In Time, etc.). Also for the very young set, I love I’ll Love You Forever.

    [Reply]

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