Nel's New Day

May 8, 2011

Mothers in Youth Fiction

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:38 PM

Today is Mothers’ Day, and I’m celebrating it by describing a few books about exceptional mothers in fiction for young people. The first four are picture books that you can share with little ones; the last one is an outstanding graphic novel series about a loving mother-daughter relationship as the young girl grows up.

This entry will be the last for a few days. Have a good week!

Poetry of narrative and visuals make Before You Came, written by Patricia Maclachlan and Emily Maclachlan Charest and illustrated by David Diaz (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, 2011) a wonderful gift for any new mother. The Maclachlans describe a woman’s reliving her pregnancy in her life with her husband, cats, dog, and birds in a house with a flower garden by the edge of a river. The deep pinks of the skin and browns of the mother’s hair are surrounded by luminous purples, reds, greens, and blues, and the story of the mother waiting for the child’s birth is equally lovely. This book is the perfect way to celebrate a child coming into this world.

Angela McAllister tells about the relationship of two snow leopards, mother and son, in Little Mistillustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies (Knopf, 2010). Guided and protected by his mother, a sweet-faced, wide-eyed cub discovers his new world—glistening snow, mountain streams, and cloud forests. Little Mist is a sweet-faced snow leopard cub who is wide-eyed with wonder at the world before him. Mother reassures her baby that some day he will rule the mountains. The beauty of the bond between kit and mother is highlighted by the soft watercolor and pencil illustrations of the charming creatures and the magnificent scenery.

Seven little mice are afraid to venture far from their home in Haruo Yamashita’s Seven Little Mice Go to School, illustrated by Kazuo Iwamura (NorthSouth, 2011) But the loving mother saves the situation by creating a “mouse train” with yarn, giving them the courage to go. The details of mouse clothing and household items are charming, and Mother Mouse’s gentle caring is very special. There are also other books in this series that also tell about the seven little mice’s father.

School is also an issue in Anna Dewdney’s third book about these wonderful characters, Llama Llama Misses Mama (Viking, 2009).  When Mama Llama leaves Llama Llama there, he is frightened and alone.  This wonderful introduction for a child leaving a parent for the first time begins with Mama waking up Llama Llama, and the story ends with his telling his mother about the great adventures he had during the day.  Dewdney’s illustrations express the series of emotions as Llama Llama suffers separation anxiety and then overcomes it, especially when Mama returns.  A true delight!

Every book is a gift filled with surprises. The Story of Life on the Golden Fields, a trilogy of coming-of-age manhwa (a Korean graphic novel), is a a grand surprise, a magnificent work sure to be a classic.  The first in the series, Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth translated by Lauren Na (First Second Books/Roaring Brook, 2009), chronicles the lives of a daughter,  Ehwa from age seven through fourteen, and her widowed mother who is looked down upon by the men at the rural tavern that she owns and runs.  The closeness of these two women show love from two perspectives, one who is experiencing it for the first time and the other who longs for a man in her life.

Throughout this stunning novel, set in pastoral Korea at the beginning of the twentieth century, delicate black-and-white illustrations and lyrical text follow Ehwa’s discoveries of the physical differences between boys and girls and her struggles with an attraction to both a young Buddhist monk and the wealthy son of an orchard owner.  She is helped to understand her knowledge through conversations with her mother who also finds joy in the attention of an artistic traveling salesman.  Kim has captured both the attitudes and emotions of his female characters as well as the beautiful landscape.

A bonus to the work is the afterword by Hwang Min-Ho that discusses the symbolism of the rain and flowers, the feminism in the book similar to that of Jane Campion’s The Piano, and the contrast between this graphic novel and other manhwa.  The trilogy is completed in The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven.

Nicola describes the impact of this book well:  “I can’t quite know how to say just how beautiful a story this was. A little girl’s curiosity about her body, the difference between boys and girls, grown-up things she over hears and how she goes straight to her mother with her questions and confusion is a tender love story in itself. The mother/daughter relationship presented here is truly touching and really the backbone of this volume.”


1 Comment »

  1. I am loving this blog!


    Comment by Renee LaChance — May 11, 2011 @ 2:14 PM | Reply

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