The Best Moms in Children’s Books
Children’s books are often filled with traditional families and loving parents, but even in that world of positive role models, a few moms stand out. So here’s a (short) list of some of the best mothers in kidlit.
- Mrs. Little. Sure her name is Eleanor, but everyone knows her as Stuart Little’s mother. Stuart Little is in so many ways a stand-in for children with developmental issues of all kinds, and yet his mother loves him dearly. She is extremely proud of him, lets him explore the world, and protect him from the many coming dangers. OK, keeping a cat in the house was not the best idea, but every house has danger lurking somewhere. Chemical cleaners, anyone? So I’ll give Eleanor a pass on this one and ask, honestly, if you had a mouse for a child, would you love him like all the others? Stuart’s mom did.
- Mrs. Berenstain. Mama Bear is the quintessential 1950’s mother who has answers for everything and is always there for her kids. There are no dark skeletons in her closet because they are too well-organized to hide them. To harried moms everywhere, she can be infuriating and an icon – the unachievable know-it-all trendsetter you hate yet secretly desire to be. Mama Bear is the original supermom in kidlit, and the impossible standard every kid expects in a mother. She always had time for Brother and Sister Bear. Of course, how much time do you think she saved by never getting out of her housecoat?
- Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web. This is an odd choice because Charlotte never met her children. After laying her eggs, she died. But the following spring, Wilbur told her thousand offspring what a great mother they had. She was so good, she influenced her eight-legged darlings from beyond the grave. Now that’s a good mother!
- Ninja Mom. OK, so Ninja Mom is the only non-classic character on this list, but I included her because every kid at some point thinks his mother is secretly a ninja. It explains how she can do all those things. My mother could hit you from across the room with a pointed shoe like a throwing star. She wielded a wooden spoon like a Samurai sword. I never heard her coming, and she knew what I was doing while in another room blindfolded. The Ninja Mom series by Scout Walker makes mom supercool and explains the essence of every mother out there.
- Lily Potter. Harry Potter never knew his mother. She was just images in moving pictures and mirrors, but she sacrificed her life to coat him in an unbreakable magic spell of love against he who shall not be named. She protected her son against the greatest evil in the wizarding world, and all Harry got was an interesting scar and ten years with some relatives he couldn’t stand (like a long summer stay at your aunt and uncle’s house). Yes, Harry tragically lost his parents, but their love for him made him a legend. From somewhere on the other side, we know his mother is as proud of him as if he had become a doctor, lawyer or defense against the dark arts teacher.
Bonus Listing: The Worst Mother in Children’s Books
Any stepmom. If a stepmom is in your story, you know she’s going to be evil, favor her own children, and make a good villain in a Disney film. And if she’s a widow, forget about it – all bets are off because at some point, she will try to kill her stepchildren. Cinderella? Turned into a household servant. Hansel & Gretel? Ordered killed in the woods. Snow White? Attempted murder by poisoned apple. The list goes on and on, and includes a few contemporary stories. Stepmothers are treated better today, but kids still worry about the evil stepmother stereotype because, well, stepmoms are the worst mothers in children’s books. And Disney movies.
So Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there, and stepmoms, too (except the evil ones!).