Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, and it’s got me thinking about my favourite mums in children’s books. It turns out that, when you really think about it, mothers in children’s literature are often conspicuous only by their absence. Here at Nosy Crow, we love fairy tales, and we particularly like finding ways to bring them into the modern day world with our apps and picture books. But while there are stepmothers aplenty in fairytales (check out the particularly evil stepmother in Snow White, our new storybook app coming out on Thursday), there is barely a good mother character in sight. So I actually found it harder than expected to pull together my top five, and would be very interested to hear any suggestions of great mothers that I’ve missed!
1) Mrs Coulter (Lyra’s mother, Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman)
She might not be the ideal role model, and she certainly has her dark side (what happens in Bolvangar stays in Bolvangar…), but Mrs Coulter has to be one of the most interesting mothers in children’s literature. And she does go a little way towards redeeming herself with her protection of Lyra at the end… right?
2) Mutti (Georgia’s mother, The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, by Louise Rennison)
My favourite thing about Georgia’s Mutti and Vati is how their parenting technique boils down to embarrassing their offspring at any possible opportunity, whether it involves buying a vintage Robin Reliant, or flirting outrageously with a George-Clooney-alike doctor.
3) Marlon’s mum (The Last Noo-Noo, by Jill Murphy)
When I was little, I was Marlon. Any attempt to rid me of my dummy was bound to end in tears. And so Marlon’s long-suffering mum is one of my favourite mums in picture books, as she attempts to play the buffer between noo-noo loving Marlon and his strict grandma. And now that I’ve grown up, I can definitely recognize my poor mum’s attempts to rid our house of the dummy in Marlon’s mum (there you go, Mum – comparing you to a picture-book monster, what better way to say Happy Mother’s Day).
4) Ma (Grace’s mother, Amazing Grace, written by Mary Hoffman and illustrated by Caroline Binch)
Is there any greater grandmother-mother team out there than Grace’s Nana and Ma? Not only will they sit and be Grace’s patients when she wants to play at doctors, and let her chase the cat around the garden dressed as Mowgli, but when Grace has a hard time, they know exactly what to say.
5) Anna (Ellie’s stepmother, Girls series, by Jacqueline Wilson)
I wanted to include at least one nice stepmother in this list, but if you thought good mothers were difficult to find, try nice stepmothers… Anna is the only one that immediately came to mind from my childhood reading, as the young stepmother of Ellie in the Girls series. You have to feel for Anna, inheriting a stroppy teenager, and then having a son who ends up being known as Eggs… But she’s a believable and imperfect character, who I came to love just as Ellie does in the book.
Who would you have on your list of the best mums in children’s books?