Review: Mommy, Mama, and Me
Even though baby Peach is still several months away from being able to see a book, let alone read one or have one read to her, we’re on the hunt for good children’s books, and I’m going to review kids’ books as I encounter them. Our plan is to build a little library for Peach which is full of books that are both objectively good—engaging and fun—and good for introducing Peach to our world. We want books that show all kinds of families, especially families like ours.
It’s a tough search though. While there are books out there that show queer families, very few bookstores or libraries carry them. They need to be ordered in, or just ordered from the internet, meaning it’s hard to just flip through them to find what’s good and what suits you. Some of the books assume the child is already dealing with discrimination. Some are very specific to particular ways of making a family (original Heather Has Two Mommies, I’m looking at you), which might be great if you’re looking to explain that way of building a family to your kid, but might not be great if you feel it over-generalizes or confuses. Some of the books just show queer families doing regular stuff, which again is helpful or not according to your needs. As a two-mom family with a baby we conceived together, and a serious dislike of books that make assumptions about women’s bodies and lesbian families, we’re especially fussy.
So I’m going to review what’s out there when I find it, and I’d love if other parents, especially those who’ve actually used these books in the field could do the same. I’m also going to get input from my own mother, a brilliant early-years teacher, who has a fantastic take on kids, learning, and gender, and on what works with kids and at what ages.
Mommy, Mama, and Me
By Leslea Newman (the author of Heather Has Two Mommies), illustrated by Carol Thompson
2009 Tricycle Press
We wanted to take a look at this book because we’ll be calling ourselves Mommy and Mama. It’s also the only board book for queer families I’ve seen so far. Mommy, Mama, and Me is about 6” square, with 18 tough cardboard pages, all in full color. The book has one sentence (about six words) on each page, with lots of repetition and gentle rhymes between facing pages. The font is mixed-case and clear.
It’s told from the point of view of the toddler-aged child, who isn’t named or gendered. The book describes a day’s activities for the child with Mommy and Mama, who are a warm and smiley, slightly messy, femme-ish couple. “Mama” appears to be white, with reddish hair. “Mommy” has curly dark hair, and her ethnicity seems ambiguous; she might be a woman of color, or not. “Me” looks a little like both of them, and there’s no discussion of biology or birth in the book, no difference between the two women’s roles or relationship to the child. They go to the park, cook, read, bathe, and go to bed. The same author and illustrator have also made Daddy, Papa, and Me in the same format, and I would assume it has comparable content.
Personally, I didn’t love the artwork or the style of the book. I have no criticisms, it just didn’t grab me. But we really want our child to have this book, because it’s a book for very young kids that reflects our family, and is about normalizing us, rather than explaining something difficult.
My mom says: “It’s got a lovely rhythm to it. I think I’d start using it at 9 months to a year, up to about 18 months, for the time you’re just introducing a bedtime story.”