We were at the library today. Mikko quite enjoyed his time berserking it up in the children's room. He pulled a library stool over and used it to climb up onto the table and then onto the backs of the stuffed chairs, which he then proceeded to "ride like a horsie." I looked the other way and pretended my child was one of the little angels at the table carefully paging through a sweet picture book on mermaids. Because, you know? My kid needs all the balance practice he can get.
I was at the library to pick up 1-2-3: A Child's First Counting Book, a beauty recommended by Thomasin of Propson Palingenesis. While I was there, I allowed the window-shopping urge to take hold, because what better place to be extravagant than a public library?
Supermom, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström, had been placed on display by the librarians. I somehow always feel guilty plucking books off the display racks, but — well, the point is to attract attention, yes? It always works on me.
I wasn't sure what I'd think. I was a little apprehensive just from the title. When "supermom" comes into play in adult conversations in the U.S., talk tends toward batting down the notion that moms can "have it all" and "do it all." I figured that wasn't what a children's book was about, but I still cracked it with a tiny frisson of anxiety.
The book is sort of about how mamas can do it all, but the "all" is much less U.S.- and middle-class-centric — heck, it's less human- and mammal-centric.
It's a book about how mothers of all species and sorts care for their young. They feed them; they wash them; they birth them; they call to them. Each spread shows at least one human mama and baby and at least one animal mama and baby, and the text alternates between telling what moms do and giving little hinting notes about biology and animal behavior. In the back is an index of all the mothers that gives a little more information; true animal fans would want to do further research, but for a 2-year-old like Mikko, these tidbits are a fine first look at a variety of animal mother-baby dyads (or triads or whatever-ads).
Next to the human mama giving her two tots a bath in a tub is a tiger mother licking her cubs. Next to a human mama serving her toddler and baby at a table is an osprey bringing a fish back to the nest. Mikko was quite taken with the swan mother and human mother simultaneously defending their young from the other's aggressiveness. He told the swan quite emphatically: "No eat baby!" There are cross-sections of various pregnant mothers and their fetuses. (Note: If anyone knows how to explain to a 2-year-old how a drawing suggests that we're seeing inside someone's skin, please do let me know.) Next to a mother roughhousing with her girls are furry creatures wrestling with the caption "Weasel moms have all kinds of tricks!" So it's cute and informative and relatable.
But who cares about any of that when there are babywearing, breastfeeding, and cosleeping pictures within!
I was so stoked and surprised and actually had to look at the pictures several times to be sure I was seeing what I was seeing.
See? Cute babywearing baby and mama with a simple wrap. (Psst, I don't think she's the one with lots of legs, fur, or tail.)
Let's take a look at the cover again:
It's similar to a picture inside (one I couldn't find online) that's from a page about cuddling, aka cosleeping.
On another page, there's an adorable breastfeeding baby with a little hand on the mother's breast, the mama in a nightgown looking down patiently. The text reads, "Human babies can wake up anytime to feed!"
Just in case you think it's AP-aggressive, there are pictures of a baby in a stroller and a toddler in a child's bed and just general images of mothers and babies frolicking and eating solids and so forth. So it doesn't come across as "selling" a particular lifestyle of parenting, just celebrating close parent relationships in general — but it shows my parenting experience, which I am so thrilled about witnessing in book form. I also really appreciate how the illustrations show mothers of many ethnicities (all framed within a Western-style culture, not as something other and exotic).
There are a few aspects of the book I could quibble with. One is the way motherless families are glossed over. "We call the person who gave birth to us 'mom.' We can call the grownup who takes care of us 'mom,' too." I appreciate that it alludes to adoption, but there are plenty of children raised by non-moms as well. Now, it's probably the case that such families would not be attracted to a book called Supermom; then again, even readers being raised by moms can know of and want to understand those who are not. But, hey, it's a picture book — not a research paper on all possible family permutations, so I understand celebrating moms and not making things too complicated.
In the same sort of vein, the book gives an impression of being comprehensive because of all the different animals, and the language of the book suggests that every mother behaves in a motherly fashion. Naturally, we know there are mothers out there, both animal and human, who parent in what we would consider a very unmotherly manner. The book focuses on the positives without alluding to any negatives — I guess the hint of this bent would be in the title Supermom.
A third is a small point: The page with a mom who has a colorful spiked hairstyle and multiple piercings is under the wording "She might look scary, but she always treats her babies very carefully." I have a distaste for naming a counter-cultural look "scary," but what I did like about that page was that it (a) shows a mother who doesn't look June Cleaver-ish and (b) affirms that such alterna-mamas are worthy as mothers.
I cheerfully added Supermom to my teetering checkout pile and have put on hold another Mick Manning and Brita Granström book: The World Is Full of Babies. It sounds like a winner, too — I'll have to let you know.
Guess what else happened while we were at the library! Someone got his own library card:
And signed it himself. And, yes, the signature matches the one on the application!
By the way, the authors are in the UK, so indeedy, the book is sold there as Supermum. I'd be fine with that version, too!
Visit Mick and Brita's website at MickandBrita.com.
I'd like to do some more reviews of children's books that appeal to those with an attachment parenting or continuum parenting mindset (and perhaps write my own). I have a few in mind already, but please feel free to chime in with your favorites to add to my reading list.
(P.S. Thanks to Mamamilkers for clueing me into the whole child-library-card thing. Now our family has more hold slots available for the books you all are going to suggest!)