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Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Great Big Mamma, written by Olivier Ka and illustrated by Luc Melanson. Groundwood, 2009. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"My mamma gives me noisy kisses.
They go '"shmops" on my cheek.
That tickles me. Her kisses mean,
"I love you so much, I want to eat
you right up."

I wouldn't even mind if she did eat me up."

I like to think that my kids could write this book! They love me for who I am and not what I look like. That love is unconditional and doesn't hinge on whether I look like everyone else's mother, or meet the expectations of a society that emulates and honors the 'beautiful'. That being said, I think it is important for everyone to be as healthy as they can be, in terms of lifestyle and weight. But, little kids aren't generally aware of looks so much as they are of the feelings felt and expressed by those they love.

In this homage to a young boy's mother, he loves everything about her...she's bigger, therefore better. She is soft, and comfortable and happy! When she decides to go on a diet, she changes. She is not so happy with the world, and her young son notices. She says she wants to lose weight so that she will 'look prettier' and he is not so sure:

"That's crazy. She wouldn't be prettier. She'd be
thinner, that's all. And less cuddly, and less soft."

He loves her just as she is...and isn't that the most important thing?

When he decides to go on a diet to be like her, she takes stock. Relinquishing the diet that started because of what other people thought, brings happiness to both, and a sense of peace. That might be the most important lesson of all in this lovely book. Don't change who you are for others, change because it is important to you. Then, change works!

Melanson's use of color and perspective is wonderful. His characters reflect the warmth they feel for each other, through the use of warm colors (red and orange) while the backgrounds are done in cool blues and greens and thus give cool, even cold, vibes from the outside world. They are indicative of the tone for the whole story. Mamma is a huge presence in every illustration and his perspective shows that clearly.

The loving relationship between the two is the focus and I share it with delight in workshops and classrooms. Olivier Ka's words are strong and leave listeners and readers with much to ponder. Luc Melanson's artwork is full of the love the two share and quite charming. What a great way to get a discussion off on the right foot!

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