It seems that as soon as children’s books hit chapter books, the parents start to get pushed out of the picture. I’m not claiming that’s a rule that applies to every book or anything like that. It can be an effective plot point and a way to push characters into independence. In looking at my list of read books at GoodReads over the last year, many of the books could be identified as having no mom (The Hidden Gallery, Leviathan, I am Number Four), a distant mom – either physically or emotionally (The Replacement or Love, Aubrey), a ditzy mom (The Genius Files), or a villainous mom (Rise of Renegade X, Epitaph Road). Some books I’ve read recently do have a strong mom presence, such as My Life as a Book. Others have a mom who is there, but she’s a little more like furniture. She might have a funny line or an important moment, but doesn’t otherwise have a major impact on the story (such as the mom in Dragonbreath). The absence of a mom can create propel characters’ actions such as in Candor or Dragonhaven.
While there are reasons for all those different types of moms and different back stories, I think there are also times when a strong mom character is a great thing in a book. I don’t know if I’ve ever handed a book to someone and said “You have to read this book for the mother.” Maybe I never will. But I do think there’s something to be said for a mom that is integral to a story, even for young adults, that isn’t there for the purposes of being the authority for tweens and teens to angst at.
One book mom I admire is Mrs. Murry from L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and other books by Madeleine L’Engle. She had four kids to raise, a town full of gossip to ignore and the big gaping hole of her husband’s disappearance to deal with. Plus she’s a scientist. She takes Charles Wallace’s uniqueness in stride for the most part and is a strength to the family. She had no problem taking Calvin O’Keefe in. L’Engle also showed Mrs. Murry’s sadness and doubts. While there were large parts of the book where she was not present, it is hard for me to picture the Murrys without her.
Who is your favorite mom in children’s or young adult literature? Why?