Are You My Mother? by P.D Eastman
Posted September 9, 2014on:
One of my all-time favorite picture books is Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. The story is both suspenseful and humorous. The cartoon-style ink drawings are delightfully expressive. And the theme is one which personally connected with me as a child.
How is the story suspenseful? It starts out with a mother bird realizing that her baby will soon need something to eat. As any mother would, she flies off to find food. Seconds later, her egg jumps and jumps. Out comes the baby bird! Only to wonder: “Where is my mother?” The rest of the story is about the bird’s search for his mom. At one point, not seeing her, the baby bird even walks by his mom as she pulls up worms. He meets up with kittens and all kinds of other animals. He also meets up with cars and all other kinds of objects. None of whom are his mother. Will the baby bird ever find his mom? At one point, even he begins to wonder, and has to reassure himself that, “I did have a mother…. I know I did. I have to find her. I will. I WILL!” However, when one of the objects turns out to be potentially dangerous, even our courageous little bird starts to wail, “I want to go home! I want my mother!”
What about the humor? It is portrayed both through the text and the illustrations. For example, there is the moment when the baby bird decides to go look for his mom. The illustration shows him with one leg on the nest and the other leg shoved out bravely in mid-air, while his eyes are confidently closed. Turn the page and…. you will see the bird plummeting to the ground. The text reads, “Down! Down! Down! It was a long way down!” Turn the page again and you will see the bird gazing up at the tree, as if confounded over what has just happened. The text informs us, “The baby bird could not fly.” Then there is of course the absurdity of the baby bird asking hens and boats if they were his mom. As the cow so astutely replies, with a droll look on its face, “How could I be your mother? I am a cow.” Finally, I love the encounter between the baby bird and the Snort. It’s funny, scary, and sweet all at the same time.
Speaking of the artwork, it is simple and perfect. First, Eastman draws on a limited palette of colors. He relies on browns, yellows, and reds. Second, the artwork is not elaborate, but instead has the comfortable and friendly appeal of cartoons. Moreover, the page never look chaotic or cluttered. Rather, white space is used to accentuate the characters. On page thirty-five, there is one lone sentence combined with a thumb-sized drawing of a puzzled bird. Finally, What I most appreciate about Eastman’s artwork is the animated expressions of his characters. At the start of the story, the mother bird’s face changes from one of contentment to worry to decision. Although most of the time, the baby bird’s face is one of confidence, he also at times shows confusion and agony. His expression when he feels his life is in danger is priceless, as is that when he finally reunites with his mom.
Up to this point, everything I’ve written is about reasons why any child would enjoy Are You My Mother? The book, however, also has a personal connection. My mom died when I was only four. While the baby bird’s mom remains alive and well, his search for his mom emotionally resonated with me then and now. Although he ultimately reunites with his mom, while I grew up without a mom, somehow his happy resolution also continues to give me a sense of peace. I can imagine that the story is reassuring to any child, regarding the love of a parent.
P.D. Eastman is famous as the author of many books in the Beginner series. Discover Are You My Mother? and others today. Many of them, such as Are You My Mother? even have accompanying toys you can buy to enhance the reading experience.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
How would you rate this book?