This illustrated children’s book celebrates the joy of mothers taking care of babies across the animal kingdom.
“What makes a Mama happy?” That’s the central question that Pelley (Raj the Bookstore Tiger, 2012, etc.) asks in her latest book, which follows the course of a day: what makes a mother happy “at the dawn of day,” “as the sun begins to climb,” “as clouds shuffle by,” “as twilight glimmers,” and “at hush of night”? And finally, what makes her happiest, overall? The answer, for mothers both human and animal (including a panda, a seal, a kangaroo, an elephant, a monkey, a penguin, and an eagle), is always related to what makes their babies happy—a full stomach, learning about the world, playing, building independence, singing, and, above all else, being loved. Each section ends with a comfortable formula that sums things up: for example, “That’s a—my baby’s belly’s full kind of Happy Mama,” or “That’s a—see my baby go kind of Happy Mama.” The tone is sweet and whimsical, with a lot of alliteration and sometimes rhyme. Seals, for instance, go “Diving deep for a fishy feast…then follow with a flip flap floppy honk of delight!”; a monkey and her baby “Dip and dangle, all a tangle, in a topsy-turvy, fun fandango.” This verbal playfulness makes this book an excellent choice for reading aloud, and Harper (The Kissing Hand, 1996, etc.) offers beautiful illustrations with plenty of absorbing detail. Her soft color washes depict mother-baby play and affection with great charm, and Harper does a wonderful job of capturing the diversity of nature and people and, in particular, the adorability of babies of all kinds. But the book’s view of child care is female-only: an older sister cares for her baby brother at one point, but fathers and brothers are left out of the book entirely. This may be accurate for some animal families, but among humans, mamas often aren’t the only ones who care for their children in the ways depicted here.
A warm, sweet, beautifully illustrated book that’s great for reading aloud, although it leaves dads out of the parenting equation.