Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In the Eyes of My Children—Mothers in Literature

Where's Our Mama, by Diane Goode
This sweet picture book describes a mother through the eyes of her children. The story starts with a gust of wind which blows the hat right off of mama's head in the middle of a busy Paris train station. Instructing her little boy and girl to stay put, she takes the baby and runs after it.
"When mama still did not return, we began to cry. A genarme nearby heard us. 'We have lost our mother,' we sobbed.
'What is her name? he asked.
'Mama.'
'What does your mama look like?'
'Our mama is the most beautiful woman in the world!'
'Dry your eyes, children, and we will find her.'"
The search that follows takes them all over the city as the children give one vague description after another and the gendarme tries his best to find the right woman. First he finds a beautiful woman, but she needs a whole troop of valets to carry her things. "Our mama is very strong. Mama can carry her own parcels." Then he finds a woman delivering a large bundle of newspapers. But mama doesn't read the newspaper—she reads millions of books. The librarian is too silent. The opera singer is too fat. ("Mama is very slim. But Mama cooks the best food in the world.") Mama wears prettier hats than the chef. Mama is very brave, but also very smart. People listen when mama speaks. Suddenly the children remember that Mama told them to wait at the station. They hurry back and find her at last: the best mama in the whole world!

I love the admiring people looking on.
I love this story because the mama isn't perfect. Her clothes are not the most stylish and she's not really all that slim. Her hair is a bit wispy, her hat is quite rumpled, and she's rather scatterbrained. But in the eyes of her children, not another woman in the city of Paris measures up to her. I hope I can be that kind of mother to my children!

Probably best known for illustrating When I Was Young in the Mountains, Diane Goode has illustrated dozens of books for children. She has an unmistakable style that is charming and whimsical. Each one of her characters is full of personality with pointy chins, funny noses, and smiling eyes. Unfortunately, Where's Our Mama? is out of print. I just happened upon our lovely hardcover in a used bookstore and immediately put it in the to-take-home stack. If you can find it anywhere, you should definitely snap it up!

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