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Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Chrysta Naron

“Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.” The author of this saying is unknown, but its wisdom resonates with so many of us.

In my family, so much of our love is rooted in shared books. The women of the family have always made time to read with their growing children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. These reading roots helped every single one of us grow into the people we are today and continue to shape us. This Mother’s Day, I want to share a list of some of my favorite books that celebrate the wonderful women in our families. 

My Mama is a Mechanic by Doug Cenko book cover

My Mama is a Mechanic by Doug Cenko

A young boy reimagines his mother as a mechanic, a chemist, a quarterback, and so much more as they go about their day playing and spending time together. We see the hero a mama is in the eyes of her child, simply by spending time together. It’s adorable!

Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan book cover

Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan

Some children are unable to live with their biological mother, and this book is a wonderful story about having someone who is not your mother taking on that role. It’s filled with lightness, appreciation, and love, while being honest about still missing your biological parents. I highly recommend this book to show people that love truly makes a family.

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams  book cover

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams 

I am so fond of A Chair For My Mother that I created a Mother’s Day story time activity and DIY Mother’s Day gift based upon it! This book is a unique narrative about a girl, her mother, and her grandmother who lost everything in a fire. It shows a community coming together to help people in a hard situation, and three generations of women dreaming and working together to support a loving mom. It’s a beautiful story with colorful illustrations that has a constant place in my home and classroom libraries.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown book cover

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

A classic for decades, the beautiful illustrations and simple words tell the story of how constant a mother’s love is for her child. Even if a child changes or goes away (or, say, becomes a boat), their mother’s unwavering love will follow them wherever they go.

My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me by Julianne Moore book cover

My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me by Julianne Moore

Actress Julianne Moore has written something truly special with My Mom is a Foreigner But Not to Me. Children explain that though their mother’s food, clothes, accent, or language may seem strange to others, for them, those things mean home. 

She Leads The Elephant Matriarch by June Smalls book cover

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch by June Smalls

This nonfiction book explores the way elephants live their lives. Groups of elephants are led by one strong matriarch who has a memory like, well, an elephant! Female elephants teach the calves, watch out for danger, and take care of everyone in their family. A wonderful way to look at matriarchs in the wild.

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow book cover

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

This book is such a feast for the eyes that even if it had no words, it would make the list. Luckily for us, it also has a great story. A young girl loves her mommy’s khimars and borrows her favorite yellow one to wear for an entire day. This is a beautiful and positive way for Muslim children to see themselves in books and a great window into another culture for non-Muslim children. 

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

In yet another great children’s book by Grace Lin, we meet a young girl and her mother. When spring begins to arrive in the little girl’s neighborhood, all of her neighbors plant beautiful flowers. But as her mother begins planting the ugliest vegetables, her daughter learns the value of heritage, cultural exchange, and the way food brings people together, as she spends time with her mother. (Bonus: there’s a great recipe in the back!)

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L B Deenihan book cover

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan

This book hits home for the many children who may have gotten a gift from Grandma that they might not like or know what to do with. Its vibrant and delightful illustrations add humor to the story of a girl learning to love the lemon tree her grandmother gives her.

Mama and Me by Arthur Dorros book cover

Mama and Me by Arthur Dorros

Arthur Dorros is another constant fixture on my classroom bookshelf. This bilingual Spanish and English book recounts a day in the life of a young girl and her mama. They share love, laughter, and snacks with one another and other members of their family. Sweeping illustrations and bright colors make this book a wonderful way to spend time together.

Plenty of Hugs by Fran Manushkin book cover

Plenty of Hugs by Fran Manushkin

This is a book written in rhyme about a family with two moms. They spend the day riding bikes, visiting the zoo, and making sweet memories, all while reminding their child that they always have enough hugs and love for them.

A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell book cover

A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell

This book by First Nations author Nicola I. Campbell and First Nations illustrator Julie Flett is a story about a grandmother (“Yayah”) taking her grandchildren outdoors to forage. She passes down generational knowledge about plants, mushrooms, and Nɬeʔkepmxcín language. Through this book we see that knowledge is a form of love. Culture and resilience are something important to all communities, especially when others have tried to erase it. It’s a true delight to read.

I hope you enjoy these Mother’s Day reads. But even more importantly, I hope you enjoy spending time creating strong roots together with your family.

Chrysta Naron is an early childhood educator and curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, who believes everything is better with glitter! Read more from her at playfulprek.com.

Book covers of picture books for Mother's Day