Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Happy Mother’s Day

on May 12, 2013

happy-mothers-dayWhat is the most dangerous job in the world? If you said anything other than being a mother in a children’s book, no porridge for you! (The second most dangerous job is being a dog in a children’s book.)

Why do writers get the urge to kill off the mom? It’s an easy – though not always lazy – way to create tension. As we all know, a story without tension is – not to put too fine a point on it – boring. Little Red Riding Hood going to Grandma’s – yawn. Little Red Riding Hood nearly eaten by a wolf – tell me more. What creates more tension than losing your nurturer/confessor/source of all guilt? (Hey, I’m talking in general terms here. My mom never believed in guilt. Bless her.)

Why the mom? First of all, we all have one. It’s a theme everyone can relate to. Second, our feelings toward Mom are the first ones we ever felt. These emotions may have become complicated over the years, but they are primal at their core. Even people who have not seen their mothers since their day of birth or have not talked to their mothers since they left home can understand. Third, these emotions are important partly because they’re so complicated. We can feel for villains because, no matter how much we think Mom infuriates us (again, general terms), she’s still Mom. We do still love her. Fourth, we only get one. Theoretically, anyway. (I know stepmoms and adopted moms hold a special place also.) Losing her is always a tragedy.

So, on this Mother’s Day, think about how much you love your mom. Or think about how much you miss her. If you can’t forgive her for not being perfect, try to be a better person yourself. Hug every mom you see. And, if you’re a writer, try not to kill her off.


Also, here’s my review of a book I recently read.

Catalyst by Laurie Halse AndersonCatalyst

Viking/Penguin Group, 2002

ISBN 978-0-670-03566-1

Kate has teenage angst big time in this book from ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults for 2003. She’s a chemistry genius and running dynamo but has no time for English or history. Long after her friends have been accepted to Harvard and Stanford, she’s still waiting to hear from the only college she applied to – MIT. In a constant battle between Good Kate and Bad Kate, she tries to control situations over which she has no control and lets other situations slide because she doesn’t know what she wants. The neighbors have a fire that forces Kate to bunk with their daughter, with whom she has never had any rapport. They achieve a sort of détente until the unthinkable happens. Anderson does a great job of dragging out the feelings all teens feel, but the adult in me wanted some kind of resolution, and there’s very little of that.

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