Mama Says

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Mama Says Book Poster Image
Elegant art, loving lessons, tender words for moms and sons.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Mothers from different cultures around the world share life lessons that help their sons become men.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this book focuses on mothers and sons in particular, it offers beautiful lessons for all of us, with illustrations fit to be framed.

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What's the story?

A series of 12 two-page spreads offer life lessons that mothers of different ethnicities pass on to their sons, from the importance of kindness, generosity, hard work, honesty, endurance, and so on. Each is given in a short poem that is written first in English, then side-by-side in the language of the culture depicted. Two illustrations for each lesson show the mother and son, dressed in cultural costumes, lovingly engaged in some action that illustrates the importance of the lesson being given. In the end, all sons have grown to men and, standing together, glow with a strength that grew out of listening to what "mama says."

Is it any good?

Though this book claims to be "a book of love for mothers and sons, " it is much, much more. With words that flow like the tender strains of a lullaby, lessons that are simple but poignant, and the rich, elegant artwork, this is truly a gift of love for us all.

Far from being your run-of-the-mill finger-wagging mother lectures, these are lessons of loving wisdom passed on with the tenderness of patient teachers at work. The words are touching and poetic, but the illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon are absolutely remarkable. Colors are rich, lines strong, and expressions brimming with human warmth. Besides portraying a universal strength of spirit as well as accuracy of detail, each dramatic painting echoes a genuine respect for people, especially mothers and sons, of all nations, and together they celebrate diversity, compassion, and "the most abiding power of all...love."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the various cultures represented, and discuss the different pieces of advice each mother gives to her son. They can refer to the afterword for specific information about the languages and cultures depicted. What do the costumes and backgrounds say about each culture? Families also might talk about how all the lessons are different, yet all promote strong character and integrity. By listening to the words, and looking at the faces of the mothers and sons, they might also notice what makes all the mothers and sons the same. What kind of men will these sons become?

Book details

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