Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (9781534461833)
Told in the first person, this picture book celebrates adults in children’s lives who take on the role of mother even if they aren’t related to the child. The little girl in this book lives with Mama Rose. Their relationship is never clarified as foster parent or relative, making it a picture book that will speak to children living in a variety of circumstances. Mama Rose does everything a mother does. She combs the little girl’s hair, get her to school, teaches her skills like making a bed or dribbling a basketball. Mama Rose encourages the little girl to dream and to know that she has potential. She also has rules like finishing your vegetables before you get dessert and doing chores like cleaning your room. Mama Rose is home and there is plenty of love to go around between them both.
With a repeating refrain and writing that is simple and accessible, Duncan shows that it is not actually being a biological mother that matters but instead being a mother figure for a child whatever the relationship. In her author note, Duncan speaks to the long tradition of fictive kin that dates back to the times of slavery and the broken families that resulted from the brutality. In the story itself, the focus is on love and support for a child and what that looks like every day.
Barlow’s watercolor illustrations show a clear connection between Mama Rose and the little girl. Filled with color, they capture the many moments that make up a relationship of parent and child.
An important book that embraces different kinds of families. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
All the Dear Little Animals by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall (9781776572892)
Originally published in 2009, this award-winning Swedish import is written by the author of the Detective Gordon series. One summer day, Esther found a dead bumblebee and decided to give it a burial ceremony. The narrator of the story, a little boy, helps her by writing a poem about death. The two head out to the secret clearing to dig a grave and plant seeds. Then they set out to find more dead creatures with the help of Puttie, who was a very good crier. They form a business called Funerals, Ltd. and spend their day doing a variety of funerals for animals of all sorts, all in their secret clearing. The final funeral of their day comes when a blackbird hits a window and dies in front of them. They all felt the sadness of that death. And then the next day, they did something different.
I adore Nilsson’s approach to children’s book with his deep understanding of the way that children think and act. This book feels like my childhood, dealing with deep and serious thought one day and moving on. It offers a skillful balance of morose, serious sadness with a sunny summer day, a business idea, and time spent with friends. It’s that juxtaposition and the frank approach of the children toward death that makes this book work so well.
The illustrations by Eriksson really add to the mix of sorrow and sunshine. They are dappled green and gold. Children will appreciate that the dead animals are shown to the reader, tucked into their boxes or on their way to being buried. The final pages with all of the headstones and graves are both humorous and touching.
Funny and serious, just like childhood. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Gecko Press.