Now that I’ve been a mother for nearly 13 years, I’m finally starting to identify—somewhat—with the grown-ups in children’s literature.

You are what you read, so I think that as a mom, I am in part product of all the moms I met in the books I read growing up:

  • Part Max’s mother in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Yes, I’ve yelled at my kids and sent them to their rooms.
  • My own less furry version of the quiet old lady whispering hush in Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. When my youngest was adjusting to his big boy bed, he wanted me to sit with him until he fell asleep. I obliged and kept sitting there long after he fell asleep.
  • Slight sprinkling of Almanzo Wilder’s mother from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy. I’m industrious, but not nearly as industrious as Mother Wilder.
  • A bit Mrs. Hatcher from Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. As the oldest sibling in my family, I had to agree with Peter that his mom let Fudge get away with too much. But now from a mother’s perspective, I totally understand her mistakes and appreciate more her willingness to admit them.
  • Part Quimby. Beezus and Ramona’s parents who showed me characters more like my own parents, especially in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Her Father, with a full-time working mom (like my own mother) and a dad at home (though my dad was unemployed by choice—a devoted househusband).
  • A little like Mama in Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind-Family. I’ve especially tried to borrow from her gentle and creative ways to motivate kids to do their chores. Though I’ve also found myself borrowing from Jennifer’s mother in The Big Tidy-Up by Norah Smaridge.
  • A tad Marilla Cuthbert, Anne of Green Gables adoptive mother. Something in me thinks I need to hold back my sense of humor to keep the kids in line. And my children will verify I’m not here to spoil them.
  • Careful not to be the moms in Paula Danziger’s The Cat Ate My Gymsuit or The Pistachio Prescription. Even at age 11, I could see the angst these mothers generated in their daughters was something to avoid.
  • Big Witch from Patricia Coombs’ Dorrie series was always off to some important witch meeting and it made an impression that Dorrie was impressed by this. Big Witch could be a witch and a mother and even if that meant leaving Dorrie alone with Gink sometimes, she always came back.

There are also so many books where the mother doesn’t have the biggest role in the story, but you can tell by the heroics of the son or daughter that she knew how to raise a brave, resourceful, creative child. Those are the moms that make up the bulk of me as a mother. My kids are in my life story, but they’ve got their own to write too. I hope I can step back and give them just the right amount of space to explore and thrive.

I’m sure that now I’ve started thinking about this, lots of other titles and characters will come to mind. Any come to mind for you?


  1. The brainy and beautiful Mrs. Murray in A Wrinkle in Time!

    Loved the books you mentioned but have never read the Dorrie series. Horrendous oversight?

    • Not a major oversight. Dorrie does have charm and I love the illustrations. The characters and stories just made magic seem more realistic. Dorrie and Big Witch go to the library and do regular things, but they do it dressed as witches! I wonder if JK Rowling ever read Dorrie.

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