Picture Books by Lynne Jonell and Petra Mathers

When I first picked up these books, I wasn’t quite sure what to think, to be honest. They seemed to be modeling a cranky, aggressive child who always got his way, but after reading the first all the way through and then the others, I gained an appreciation for the real message lying beneath: regardless of behavior, there is always love between a mother and child.

mnThe first book I’m reviewing is called “Mommy, Go Away!” Christopher is frustrated with Mommy. She keeps telling him to pick up his toys and stop making messes. Finally it’s bath time and she wants him to get in the tub. He’s tired of minding, and tells her to go away. He wants her to sail away on his bathtub boat. Mommy shrinks down until she’s very small and goes for a ride in his boat. She’s nervous, but he tells her he’ll watch over her. After Mommy’s adventures, she asks nicely to be big again, saying that it’s too hard to be small. “I know,” Christopher says. This book shows us that when roles are reversed and we see things from someone else’s perspective, we can gain respect for them and the contention will cease.

xcvNext comes “I Need a Snake.” Robbie is bound and determined to have a snake. Looking at pictures in a book isn’t good enough, and neither is going to the museum to see the stuffed snakes there. Finally Mommy takes him to a pet store, just to look, and he falls in love with the greenest, scaliest specimen there. Mommy says absolutely not, so Robbie starts looking for snakes around his own house. He takes his mother’s shoelace, his sister’s jump rope, and his father’s belt. With some imagination, they make very fine snakes indeed, and Robbie learns that when Mommy says no, we can find ways to still have fun without being disobedient.

madIn “When Mommy Was Mad,” we see Mommy in a terrible mood. Mommy didn’t even kiss Daddy goodbye this morning, and she burned the toast, and she’s been rattling pots and pans. She won’t read a story or snuggle. Robbie and his big brother Christopher are worried. Did they do something to make Mommy mad? After trying unsuccessfully to cheer her up, Robbie decided he was mad too. He was just as prickly as Mommy. In fact, he is a borkupine! He has spikes and everything! He’s going to go outside and bork Mommy. He tells her that borkupines don’t like angry noises, and they really don’t like it when she forgets to kiss Daddy. They need stories and snuggles or they get very prickly. Mommy apologizes for being a borkupine herself, and when Daddy gets home that night, she tells him she’s sorry for borking him. Of course he doesn’t know what that means, but she’ll let Robbie explain.

momOur last book is called “Mom Pie,” and it’s my favorite of the four. Company is coming over for dinner and Mommy’s in a bit of a tizzy. There’s so much to do, and she orders the boys out of the kitchen. They don’t care that there will be three kinds of pie; they miss Mommy, so they decide to make a Mom pie. They go around the house, gathering up things that remind them of Mommy, things that are soft, sweet, and smell good. Then they place the plate in the center of the table. When Mommy sees it, and learns what it is, she sits right down and snuggles her boys, while delegating the rest of the tasks. Everything got done on time and the dinner was wonderful, and everyone agreed that nothing could be better than a Mom pie, except for a Mommy.

Also in this series is “It’s My Birthday, Too!” a story of sibling rivalry. I have not yet had the chance to read this book, but if it’s like the others, I look forward to the opportunity.

I appreciated the way these books celebrated the relationship between mothers and children from a different perspective, from that of a child. I recommend these books for giving Mommies something to think about.

(These books were published in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2001, respectively, and were published by Penguin Putnam.)

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