Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Maternal Marvels

With mothers, the best approach is to expect the unexpected, especially concerning their offspring.  Mothers are a study in contrasts.  They may be calm one minute as nurturers and fierce in the next moment as protectors.  They may choose to ignore you or chase you depending on the threat you pose.  They know when to keep their children close and when to set them free. 

They are master pretenders, architects, providers, healers, and transporters.  Authors Heather Lang and Jamie Harper have collaborated to provide readers with the inside scoop on marvelous mothers in Supermoms!: Animal Heroes (Candlewick Press, March 7, 2023) with artwork by Jamie Harper.  These creatures perform remarkable feats to supply the best possible life for their children for as long as necessary.

Supermoms are everywhere.  

Regardless of their species, size, shape or color, mothers are on the job all day and all night.  You'll be surprised at the design ingenuity groundhog moms employ in housing their young.  An underground bathroom?

Did you know emperor penguin females leave for up to two months to get food for their chicks?  Some mothers like the bearded capuchin monkey even feed other monkey babies that are orphaned.  There's nothing quite as strange or amazing as how moms transport their littles.  Baby alligators hitch a ride inside their mother's mouths to the water.

Some mothers move their charges repeatedly to keep them safe.  There is no use giving a predator a head's up by staying in the same place.  Other moms along with female family members can build a wall of bodies around a calf to protect them.  


Have you ever seen a bird pretend to have a broken wing to keep enemies away from a nest?

Animal mothers know every day is an opportunity to teach their children to survive and flourish.  Sea sponges are placed on the end of bottlenose dolphins so they can get food from the bottom of the ocean floor without injuring themselves.  You will never guess how many years an orangutan mom teaches their children to get food, select items to use as tools, and to make their beds in the tops of trees.  Supermoms all around the world are everything the word implies.

Authors Jamie Harper and Heather Lang filled this title with facts and fun.  For each of five supermom specialties, they highlighted at least three animals for a total of eighteen creatures featured.  The fun is added in all the commentary by the youngsters and their mothers shown in speech bubbles.  For example, a red-knobbed hornbill mother uses mud and poop to stuff the entrance to the nest to protect her eggs and chicks.  This is what we read in the commentary.

P. U.!

Some fresh air
would be nice.

Or a fan.

Using traditional and digital collage Jamie Harper begins to entertain, engage, and educate readers on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Not only do we see the giraffe mom doing what she does best to protect her young, (They really do kick.) but other animals are supplying us with alliterative comments as well as the younger giraffe.  These full-color illustrations here, placed in panels, are a preview of the artwork throughout the book.  A variety of sizes of panels is used.  On the jacket, the panels are varnished.

To the left of the spine, on the back, using the same polka-dotted green canvas, we read the words in yellow,


Above the words are three animal moms bursting forth from a cloud of orange and a yellow and blue-dotted star.  Their facial looks are determined, and their stances are definitely heroic.

The opening endpapers are two tones of a gold-dotted pattern with darker and larger golden spaces.  On the closing endpapers is a green background with white dots and darker and larger green spaces.  These could easily be the replication of skins of animals.  On a crisp white background, three animal children are commenting about an animal flying over their heads.  This is the two pages for the title page information.

With a page turn, a two-page image greets readers.  Here all eighteen of the moms are spread across yellow rays shooting across both pages.  It is as if we are reading a superhero comic.  This is followed by a series of illustrations ranging in sizes from two pages to two smaller panels on a page and to a full-page visual.  Sometimes there are three panels to a page.  The collection and combination of panels may be squares and/or rectangles, vertically or horizontally placed.

All the animals are lively, portrayed with typical characteristics and others are exaggerated to enhance their remarks.  These creatures are placed in appropriate environments.  At times we are given a more wide-angle view of their lives and other times, we are brought closer to them.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  On a ruddy background, from a slightly bird's-eye view, across most of the two pages, nine large female elephants have formed a tight circle around a baby elephant.  They are facing outward, trunks raised.  In the left-hand, lower corner a female lioness is rethinking her objective.  One of two birds on the back of one of the elephants says,

Poor guy . . .

The young elephant with huge, open eyes says,

Is this really necessary?

When laughter and fun are attached to learning, that learning tends to be remembered.  Supermoms!: Animal Heroes written by Heather Lang and Jamie Harper with illustrations by Jamie Harper does both superbly.  At the close of the book, two pages are dedicated to providing further information about the superpowers of each of the eighteen animals.  These extra facts are certain to promote more study.  On another page are lists of children's books, online resources, audiovisual resources, authors' websites, and acknowledgements.

To learn more about Heather Lang and Jamie Harper and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  There are a lot of extra resources for this title at Heather Lang's website.  Heather Lang has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Jamie Harper has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.

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