In honor of Mother’s Day, here are 10 mothers from the world of children’s books. These characters may not be perfect, but they do their best to love, protect, inspire, and comfort their children….
1. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Mrs. Rabbit does exactly what a good mother should do – she points out potential danger and provides comfort when things don’t go so well. “Don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden” she tells her mischievous son. With good reason – since Mr. Rabbit was put in a pie. But after Peter decides the prize is worth the risk, his mother still puts him to bed and makes him camomile tea.
2. Owen by Kevin Henkes
Owen’s mother is the perfect combination of supportive and resourceful. Her son, Owen, loves his fuzzy yellow blanket. He loves it so much that he wants to carry it to school. After trying a few things that many parents will recognize – like a Blanket Fairy who will take Fuzzy, but leave a “big-boy gift in its place,” Owen’s mother has an “absolutely wonderful, positively perfect, especially terrific idea.” Her solution helps her son feel secure and ready for school in a way that protects his dignity, and more importantly his heart.
3. A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams
The mother in this classic book is an excellent role model for her young daughter – she works hard as a waitress and “….each evening every single shiny coin goes into the jar.” They are saving for a “wonderful, beautiful, fat, soft armchair.” But when a fire destroys their home, they have to start saving again. They finally save money for the perfect chair – and Mama curls up to watch TV with her daughter “asleep in her lap.”
4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
She’s off screen, of course, but never far way. The supper was still hot! And she clearly values Max’s artistic endeavors. His art work is thumbtacked to the wall.
5. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
After hatching eight ducklings, Mrs. Mallard teaches her little ones to “swim and dive….walk in a line, to come when they are called, and to keep a safe distance from bikes and scooters and other things with wheels.” She even guides them to the safety of the Public Garden – with the good natured help of Michael, the policeman.
6. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
A tiger at the door requesting tea does not fluster Sophie’s mother for a second. “Of course,” she says to the tiger. She even offers him a sandwich. I know many wonderful mothers, but not one who would invite a tiger in for a sandwich.
7. Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Sarah is a mail-order bride from Maine who becomes the mother to Anna and Caleb, two children who live with their father on a farm. She sings and draws and tells stories about her life back East: “In Maine, there are rock cliffs that rise up at the ends of the sea. And there are hills covered with pine and spruce trees, green with needles….” giving Anna and Caleb a glimpse of a world far away from their own.
8. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The real deal pioneer mom: “Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday.” She even “colored the butter” to make it look prettier!
9. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
Little Bear’s mother provides certainty. She is there. And when you’re beginning to read, reliability is important. After Little Bear makes his Birthday Soup, his mother arrives with the all important cake: “This Birthday Cake is a surprise for you. I never did forget your birthday, and I never will.”
10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I jumped up a little on my self-imposed age restriction (I started with books for younger readers), but Mrs. Murry has to be included on a list of memorable mothers. She is Meg’s greatest inspiration – a disciplined scientist who is deeply committed to her family. She is trusting (welcoming Mrs. Whatsit into their house in the middle of the night – and offering her a sandwich) and gives Meg things to think about: “I think that with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanations. But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean the explanation doesn’t exist.”
Happy Mother’s Day!