Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We will throw soft wonderful things at Phyllis Root's house.

Our dear friend Mace (Ziggy's name for her) hipped us to our most recent favorite book, Big Momma Makes the World, by Phyllis Root, with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury, whose Tom & Pippo books have been well loved in our home.

We read Big Momma anywhere between three and six times a day, whenever Ziggy cries out, "Baby!" (his name for the book, despite his Daddy saying to me this very morning, "The Baby's not even really all that a much a player...?") and commands, "Read!" as he did recently to a special family friend and supper guest. Both reverends, the reader and his wife, have a teenager and therefore hadn't yet come across this book, published well after their own boy held them joyfully hostage to towers of read-alouds.

A creation myth to appeal even to the secular humanists among us, Big Momma Makes the World is warm, folksy, spiritual without being preachy and sings from every page. It can't hurt Ziggy's love of the story that his own Mama Booty bears a strong resemblence to Oxenbury's images, and I love that-- it helps me celebrate my own roundness. My Ziggy, a baby not unlike Big Momma's, settles into the crook of his father's neck or twining round my bosom to hear it again, telling us, "Comfy."

I've been so tickled by my son's gentleness, his sensitivity and passion: he's a hugger like no baby hugger anyone knows. He REALLY hugs. Tight. He kisses. Hard. He lives with such gusto, laughing and cutting up with pure joy, and is in possession of a tenderness that melts me. Just a few days ago, while visiting Diggy, I stood in her kitchen, secretly watching my boy love on a doll that belonged to my sister when were small girls. He held her, put her thumb in her mouth, rocked her, kissed her.

I want to tell everyone I care about to read Big Momma to their children. To their lovers. To their workmates. To the folks with whom they knit or read or used to fight or attend church. To the people running for office in their districts. I found this wonderful interview with Ms. Root in which she expresses, "What if people came and threw things at my house because I had portrayed God as a single mother?" Upon reading that, I wept and laughed both, and want Ms. Root to know that Ziggy and his own Mama Booty will throw things at her house like sunrise muffins and Gee's Bend postage stamps (aren't they the best?) and choice apples, succulent mangos and fuzzy mittens, to show her how much we love her story.

If God isn't a single mother as much as God is anyone and everything else, I'm no believer.


  1. Thanks for the book tip; always looking for more good reads. Though I probably will edit the language ("That's good. Real good.") as that won't pass muster in this house.

    RE: Richard Scarry: the only redeeming thing about the stories are the smallness of the creatures and the busy-ness of the pages. Kids really glom on to the worms, etc., especially when they do things like drive cars.

    There are a ton of great kiddie lit choices out there, but unfortunately, there's a boatload of crap that doesn't come near the idea of literature. Thankfully, libraries are free and also thankfully, we as parents can still edit our kids' choices, nudging them hopefully to prefer the kind and the gentle.

  2. Dang, I go off on a tangent about kids' books and forget what I meant to say: I saw the Gee's Bend quilts at the Whitney a few years back and it was/they were amazing.

  3. It would be such a shame to edit the colloquial language of Root's story.

    Both the Mister and I loved the Scarry books as children, and Zig does, too.... But the mishap and mayhem factor was something I *hadn't* remembered.

    As far as kind and gentle goes, it's a great ideal, and certainly one I aspire to, particularly at this tender timeframe. But in the larger picture I think reading and play acting about things that aren't necessarily so is an important (and safe) way of dealing with the baser nature of humanity and the animal kingdom.

  4. looks great -- just ordered it!