The Picture Book Buzz

Brave Like Mom - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

The hardest thing in coping with an illness of a loved one - family or friend - is explaining it to a child. This book offers hope, showing goods days along with bad and helping us all find our own bravery, strength, and fierceness.

Brave Like Mom


Author: Monica Acker


Illustrator: Paran Kim


Publisher: Beaming Books (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Parent's illness, bravery, strength, love, resilience, and family.


Synopsis:

As one girl watches her mom battle illness, she sees Mom being strong, brave, and fierce on both good days and bad ones. Mom is fierce as she catches and wrestles a fish and brave as she endures needles from the doctor. The girl wants to be brave like Mom! As she worries about her mom's health, the girl realizes that bravery comes in many forms and that she can be brave too.


A poignant and sensitive story about a loved one living with a chronic illness, and an important lesson about how being brave doesn't mean you aren't scared.


Opening Lines:

My mom is strong.

She lifts me up with rocket-booster arms

so I can soar through the sky.


She opens the applesauce jar without making a funny face.


What I LOVED about this book:

This fun, lively opening starts the book's pattern of alternating between positive things that impress the child about her mother,

Text © Monica Acker, 2022. Image © Paran Kim, 2022.


and sadder, though equally impressive, things involving her mother's undefined illness. By leaving the illness open, as well as the treatments, this book will have a wider applicability for a number of families.

Text © Monica Acker, 2022. Image © Paran Kim, 2022.


She cradles my sister and me and tells us she’s sick.

Sicker than bubblegum medicine can fix.


She tries different treatments now, hoping one

day they will make her feel better.


My mom is strong.


I love the wonderful child centric POV and voice of this book. Referring to amoxicillin (or something similar) as "bubblegum medicine" perfectly captures both the little girl's own experience with illness and her precious innocent voice.


It's tough sometimes to know what and how much to tell young children when their parent(s) or other family members get really sick. This book offers a tender, yet honest look at the strength, bravery, and fierceness of this mother as she fights her illness at home or in the hospital, through good days and bad.


For the little girl, her mom's bravery is displayed in tackling spiders and eating 'strange' food but also sleeping alone in a hospital room. Her fierceness is seen catching big fish and completing a competition, as well as struggling daily with aches and pains. Although she wants to be just like her mom, sometimes her fear wins and the tears come.

Text © Monica Acker, 2022. Image © Paran Kim, 2022.


Her mom reassures her that the strong cry, the brave get scared, and the fierce continue by holding onto hope. And in a precious gift from this mother (and the author to her nieces), she "whispers, 'You are the strongest, bravest, fiercest kid I know'.” Then, like a teeter-totter, or a pendulum, the narrative shifts and the little girl explores all the ways she is strong, brave, and fierce. I adore these last couple of pages and most especially the final spread.


Paran Kim's soft-colored, expressive illustrations offer little touches, like the girl's companion toy lion ("courage") and a wonderful battle against bedtime shadows (see this image in Monica's interview on Monday). And beautifully capturing the range of emotions the little girl and her family experience. The author's note specifies that, although written as a tribute to her sister-in-law (who died of cancer), she hopes everyone will be inspired to find their own strength. This is a very heartfelt, honest, yet gentle tackling of an often tricky, emotionally charged time. One that might help give kids hope or at least a means by which to find their own strength, bravery, and fierceness as their families navigate an illness. And perhaps provide a little understanding in their friends. Overall, a touching resource for families dealing with chronic or serious illnesses.


Resources:

- paint a word, face, or design on a rock as a reminder of your bravery, strength, and fierceness. Carry it with you or put it somewhere special.

- make your own brave lion friend.


- draw a picture, or write a short description, of what you think it means to be brave. Do the same thing for strong and then fierce.


- what scares or worries you the most? Do you have something that helps you feel brave or fierce? Draw a picture, or write a story, of you and this item defeating your fear or worries.


If you missed the interview with Monica Acker on Monday, find it (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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