Thursday, May 3, 2012

Strong Mothers

The mother in Little Bear’s Little Boat by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter serves as a model of how to instill confidence in her cub. We see Little Bear out in his boat for hours at a time. His mother “calls him in for bed” and he ties up his boat for the night. We see that he’s responsible, and that his mother knows he’s responsible. So she gives him a lot of freedoms. Yet we also sense that she’s always near.

A few pages later, when she sees that Little Bear has outgrown his boat, she affirms his perceptions and offers her knowledge at just the right time: “It is a little bear’s destiny to grow and grow till he is a big bear. It is a little boat’s destiny to stay the same size.” We see the sadness in the cub’s eyes and the comforting hug of his mother. We know that Little Bear listens because he repeats the same words a bit later, when he carries out his course of action.

With Mother’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking a good deal about the mothers I admire in children’s literature. This book is a small gem. Unlike Peter’s Chair (a book I adore, don't get me wrong), in which Peter is (understandably) upset that his little sister gets his crib and beloved chair, and is still coming to terms with the fact that he must part with the things that no longer serve him, Little Bear sees for himself that he’s outgrown his beloved boat, and he decides what to do about it. His mother validates his feelings and gives him words to describe this rite of passage. But she also gives Little Bear room to take in his new place in the world and decide what he wants to do about it.

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