Kid's Stuff -- Books About Single Mothers
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"Lottie's Princess Dress"
Written by Doris Dorrie
Illustrated by Julia Kaergel
(Penguin/Dial, 1999)

A lighthearted take on the whole tough-getting-kids-out-the-door dilemma... It's a school (and work) day and Lottie's harried mother grows increasingly exasperated while trying to hustle the dreamy-headed young'un out to greet the day. She wants Lottie to bundle up against the cold, but the girl insists on wearing her golden princess dress, and in the argument that follows, Mom briefly blows her stack and then apologizes. She eventually gives in and lets Lottie wear her dress-up clothes, and what's more, Lottie convinces Mom to wear her fancy evening dress, too, so that they'll be dressed up together. Lottie keeps insisting that they should dress fancy because it's a "special" day -- and when they do dress up, it becomes a special day, with strangers and teachers and co-workers smiling at a parent who's been drawn into the magical world of playtime. The book is bittersweet, touching both on conflict and playfulness. Since no daddy appears, it can also be taken as a single-parent book. Recommended! (B+)

"A Special Day For Mommy"
Written by Dan Andreasen
Illustrated by Dan Andreasen
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004)
Hilarious! The gender-balanced follow-up to Andreasen's earnest A Little Help From Daddy is a much more puckish and witty work. A little piglet girl "surprises" her mother (possibly for Mother's Day, though the text doesn't pin it down, could be a birthday, too...) The daughter brings Mom breakfast in bed (Cheerios) and spills milk all over, and though the Mom is all beaming smiles and appreciation, she also winds up cleaning up the mess, when the little girl isn't looking. This pattern continues all morning long: the girl brings Mom some flowers (by ripping up her flower beds) and makes her a sweet card (spilling glue on the floor) and makes jelly sandwiches for lunch. My girl laughed out loud and cackled with glee at the page where the piglet says "Yuck! I'm all sticky, Mom!" and the next day she said she thought it was funny. This book celebrates impishness in girls, while also maintaining a sweet, sincere emotional underpinning. Good artwork, good text -- the story is simple and clear, and the humor works both for little kids and their beleagured (but loving) parents. Recommended... If it hits you right, you'll love it. (A)

"Don't Forget I Love You"
Written by Miriam Moss
Illustrated by Anna Currey
(Dial Books, 2004)

Another bear book. This one explores emotional transitions and daily rituals: a mama bear gets her daydreaming little boy ready for school, but when they start to run late, she drops him off quickly, accidentally forgetting to leave his favorite toy Rabbit, and also forgets to tell Billy she loves him and will pick him up later. Billy cries, because he expects the ritual goodbye, and also because and he feels bad that his dawdling made them late. Mama Bear, realizing her mistake, comes back and makes Billy feel better. A sweet book with good humor and a happy ending, and lovely artwork. The emotional life of Billy is quickly and deftly drawn, and given the respect is deserves, while also showing how exasperating it can be to herd little children around... A compassionate sketch of the emotional relationships between small children and their caregivers... Recommended! (A)

"The Daddy Book"
"The Mommy Book"
Written by Todd Parr
Illustrated by Todd Parr
(Megan Tingley Books, 2002)

These happy, friendly, brightly colored, cartoonish books sing the praise of playful, goofy parents, with equal time given to each gender. The simplicity and directness of the artwork is similar in its impact to the "Maisy" books, as is the plain, declarative writing. Parr's work hints at a hipper world view, however, with dads that do housework and moms who ride rad-looking motorcycles. The Daddy Book is probably the most significant of the two, since it depicts fathers engaged in what are (sadly) still considered unmasculine activities, such as vacuuming and baking cookies. The Mommy Book scrupulously offers an equal-time version of almost exactly the same activities, although dressing up and shopping are two mommy-only events not seen in the other book. There is a teensy, almost imperceptible bit of bias in favor of dad's, notably when a mom is seen singing and the kids frown and wince, as opposed to the big grins seen in The Daddy Book. This is really nitpicking, though: this series is patently and explicitly "politically correct" (or "progressive," if you prefer), and quite nice for trying to introduce not only so many social roles, but also a wide range of activities for kids (and parents) to consider. Most important, they are cheerful and fun to read. I'd recommend them for kids under one year old -- once they can fully see color, they'll love this bold, vibrant artwork. (Parr has a bunch of other books, which I haven't checked out. Some, like The Peace Book, seem a little too ooey-gooey for me...)

"Owl Babies"
Written by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Patrick Benson
(Candlewick, 1992)

A trio of baby owls are left alone in the nest while their mother searches for food. The eldest cheers the other two on, while the youngest cries for its mommy. I never thought much of this book until separation anxiety started to set in with our baby, and she liked to have it read over and over and over. Guess that's why it's in every book store in the country! A nice, simple story that deals with a primal emotional issue; nice artwork, too. (B+)

"Miko: Mom, Wake Up! Let's Play!"
Written by Brigitte Weninger
Illustrated by Stephanie Roehe
(Penguin-Miniedition, 2004)

A suuuuper-adorable little mouse-boy wakes up on the early side and shows mercy when his mother asks him to let her sleep a little while longer... While she's dozing, Miko prepares a little snack, sets up some toys and finds Mom's favorite picturebooks... When he does finally wake her up, she is charmed by his thoughtful efforts and they begin a really nice morning together... The story has a lovely, light touch, but the artwork is what will clinch it for you. These are really cute books, and Miko is the kind of readily-identifiable, instantly iconographic character that little kids will fall in love with right away... But not in an icky, Disneyesque way... Trust me: you will like these books. (As with all the Miko books, this one is just him and Mom... They don't makea big deal out of it, but this is clearly a single-parent family...) (A)

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