Trip tic of motherhood-themed books

Tech & Media

6 Books for Kids That Show How Diverse Motherhood Can Be

May 7, 2018

As a queer parent, a single-parent-by-choice, a lower income and oft-underemployed parent, it’s rare that I see myself represented in the pages of children’s books. Mothers in kid lit are overwhelmingly straight, white, cisgender, thin, middle class, married and able-bodied. They are depicted with one gender presentation. But in the schoolyard, on public transit, in the library — in real life — this is such a small fraction of mothers.

So, in advance of Mother’s Day, I've rounded up a handful of books I appreciate for their representations of motherhood too often left off the page. Here’s to motherhood in all of its forms, and to more books with more varieties of moms to come!

Mama Zooms (Written And Illustrated By Jane Cowen-Fletcher)

Recommended for ages 2-5

Book cover: Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher

In this sweet picture book a young child describes his day, which begins with his father placing him on his mother’s lap in her “zooming machine” — the manual wheelchair she uses to get around. Depictions of disabled parents are few and far between in children’s books, and this 1993 picture book plays a small part in filling this gap. Mama Zooms was inspired by the author’s sister, herself a wheelchair-user and mother.

Hattie Peck (Written And Illustrated By Emma Levey)

Recommended for ages 3-5

Book cover: Hattie Peck by Emma Levey

Hattie Peck is a hen who longs for an egg of her own, but she’s only ever laid one and it didn’t hatch. Anyone who’s struggled with fertility issues will appreciate Hattie’s determination to hatch eggs: “they were all she thought about and all she dreamed about,” the book says. Hattie decides to gather abandoned eggs and become a mother this way instead. Hattie Peck makes a good starting point for conversations about non-traditional routes to parenthood.

Asha’s Mums (Written By Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse, Illustrated By Dawn Lee)

Recommended for ages 5-8

Book cover: Asha's Mums by Rosamund Elwin

Asha struggles with her teacher and classmates when it’s assumed that a school form has been filled out incorrectly because it claims that she has two moms. Asha in fact does have two moms, a lesbian couple who support her through the situation at school. While there have been numerous children’s books with two-mom families since, Asha’s Mums became something of a Canadian classic when it was banned by a Surrey school board in 1997 (seven years after its publication), a ruling that was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2002.

How Mamas Love Their Babies (Written By Juniper Fitzgerald, Illustrated By Elise Peterson)

Recommended for ages 2-5

Book cover: How Mamas Love Their Babies, but Juniper Fitzgerald

An ode to the working mom, How Mamas Love Their Babies is a look at the many ways mothers provide for their children. Accompanied by gorgeous art collage, what separates this book from many working mom narratives is its inclusion of work-from-home moms, low income moms, and — for the first time — mothers who make a living as sex workers. This book is sure to prove challenging for some, but ultimately it’s a gentle introduction to the topic for children and adults.

Almost Zero: A Dyamonde Daniel Book (Written By Nikki Grimes, Illustrated By R. Gregory Christie)

Recommended for ages 6-11

Book cover: Almost Zero: A Dyamonde Daniel Book by Nikki Grimes

The third book in this chapter book series, Almost Zero is the one of the set with the most focus on Dyamonde and her mother specifically. Nikki Grimes has a gift for imparting wisdom and lessons in a way that manages to stay upbeat and fun as a read. Dyamonde’s mother teaches her a lesson about the difference between wanting and needing something, and Grimes’ signature style is maintained throughout. A smart single mom and her growing daughter will find a place in the hearts of single parents in particular, but any reader no doubt.

Sweetest Kulu (Written By Celina Kalluk, Illustrated By Alexandria Neonakis)

Recommended for ages 5-8

Book cover: Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

A board book and bedtime lullaby for the youngest of readers, Sweetest Kulu is a poem more than a story. In it, a mother speaks to her newborn baby, walking through various lessons and offerings from the local arctic animals and the land itself. Written by Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, Sweetest Kulu is a beautiful tribute to traditional teachings and respect for the natural world.

Article Author Tara-Michelle Ziniuk
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She’s a queer single mom to a 7.5-year-old. She’s overshared about her daughter for Today’s Parent, Bunch Family, Baby Post and various other print and digital publications. She’s also a poet (her kid says “of sad books”) and book reviewer (for Publisher’s Weekly, The Canadian Children’s Book News and more). You can find her on Twitter @therealrealtmz.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.