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May Books: Mother’s Day is Not Just for Mothers

By on May 3, 2012

by Meribeth C. Shank

With these books we honor the mothers in our lives, whether they are our own, or chosen; whether living near or far, or no longer alive; whether young or old, rich or poor. They have given us life, helped us, and many times accompanied us during our own life journey. May they continue to hold a cherished place in our hearts.

Meet Me at the Moon by Gianna Marino. Viking, $16.99, Ages 3-6

Mama Elephant tells Little One she must climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain, because the land is dry. And like many young ones when their mamas must go away for whatever reason, Little One objects. The wise mother elephant is encouraging: “You will feel my love in everything around you.”

Each time Little One asks a question or raises an objection about her leaving, Mama’s answer reassures with a comment about the natural world; “But Mama, I won’t be able to see you.” “Find the brightest star . . . it will be as if we are seeing each other.”

Sunlit illustrations range from morning into night, even including a double page spread of welcome rain. Young children will be especially drawn to the loving interactions between Mama and Little One, sometimes resembling a dance. And the alert giraffes and zebras from the background move protectively into the foreground when Mama leaves.

The artist’s use of rounded shapes enhances the power not only of the rising yellow sun, and the brilliance of orange sunset, but especially the brightly lit moon, as it seems to touch the earth, where mother and child meet. Kind giraffe faces, energetic zebras, curving elephant shapes, rolling clouds, plus animal shadows and silhouettes against the horizon, add texture and tone to lyrical text, in an African setting that feels as universal as mother love.

Princess of Borscht by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen. Roaring Brook, $17.99, Ages 4-9

Recovering from pneumonia, Ruthie’s Grandma reports that she’s starving because the hospital food is awful. Ruthie wants to make homemade borscht, but Grandma falls asleep before Ruthie can write down her recipe. Dad doesn’t even like borscht, and despite Ruthie’s searching, she can’t find Grandma’s secret recipe.

Across the hall from Grandma’s apartment lives Mrs. Lerman who is the Empress of Borscht — she gets the beets started cooking while Dad’s napping. Soon Mrs. Rosen, the First Lady of Borscht from down the hall, arrives and advises Ruthie to add onions. And then the Tsarina of Borscht, from the apartment next door, recommends lemons. Soon the three are arguing about whether to add salt or sugar or honey.

When they leave, Ruthie thinks the soup is missing an important ingredient, and adds a pinch of something that smells like pickles. She wonders if she added the right thing as she and Dad take the soup in a thermos, meeting up with Mr. Lee at the corner store. He gives them Grandma’s favorite sour cream topping, and Ruthie imagines he is the King of Borscht.

Arriving back at the hospital, Ruthie’s Grandma is pleased and claims to be Queen of Borscht, but Ruthie declares herself Princess of Borscht because she discovered Grandma’s secret ingredient without ever finding Grandma’s recipe.

Loving relationships are clear not only from the colorful paintings of cozy surroundings, but also in spite of the friendly bickering and gentle teasing demonstrated in both text and humorous multimedia illustrations in this beguiling family story.

My Teacher, by James Ransome. Dial, $16.99, Ages 5-8

Although not every teacher supplies a mothering role (nor should they), this heartwarming story is homage to dedicated teachers who give something extra for their students, such as is written in the dedication. Teaching three generations of children, as does the teacher in this book, is a conscious decision to make an investment in the development and education of young people.

The identified student, a girl with hair in cornrows, makes a series of observations, in these pages, about why her teacher continues to teach in the same school. When she could easily retire or teach across town. Award winning artist Ransome reveals multiple talents as both writer and illustrator of this irresistible storybook with active school-centered paintings to accompany graceful text about a teacher who encourages her students to use their talents.

She loves reading and she helps her students love reading too; she talks with students about the things that are important to them; she demonstrates ways to help others in need; she thinks outside the lines and encourages this in her classroom; she makes it possible for her students to showcase what they know, and helps them to make their dreams come true. Students in her classroom not only make their own contributions in class but they also hear stories from her of previous students, once in this same classroom, who are now a significant influence in the local community. Including their very own teacher!!

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, teaches classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web: http://meribeths.blogspot.com

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