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Top 100 Picture Books #45: Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

AreYouMyMother1 211x300 Top 100 Picture Books #45: Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman#45 Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman (1960)
39 points

I am such a big fan of the truly excellent easy reader. This is another one that blows you away with its perfect simplicity. – Amy M. Weir

This has everything. Different animals. A car, a plane. And all the drama and emotion of the baby bird trying to find his mother. But best of all — the Snort! I remember when my own mother bought this book for me and I could read it myself! I also remember my husband reading it to my son the first time when he was very young. When my husband cried out with the baby bird, “You are not my mother, you are a Snort!” my son burst into tears. I had to restrain the emotion in my voice when reading that part for quite some time, and rush to the end where the mother bird hugs her baby and everything’s better. - Sondra Eklund

NOT to be confused with the excellent Alison Bechdel memoir of the same name out this year, of course.

Well thanks to the wonders of including Easy Books on this list, P.D. Eastman’s other classic title appears (the first, to my mind, being Go Dog Go).  Eastman has always struck me as a cursed author.  People look at his books and because they were part of Seuss’s beginner book imprint they assume that his titles were by Seuss himself.  Not the case.

The plot from Wikipedia reads, “A hatchling bird’s mother, thinking her egg will stay in her nest where she left it, leaves her egg alone and flies off to find food. The baby chick hatches. He does not understand where his mother is so he goes to look for her. In his search, he asks a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a cow if they are his mother. They each say, ‘No.’ Then he sees an old car, which cannot be his mother for sure. In desperation, the hatchling calls out to a boat and a plane, and at last, convinced he has found his mother, he climbs onto the teeth of an enormous power shovel. A loud ‘SNORT’ belches from its exhaust stack, prompting the bird to utter the immortal line, ‘You are not my mother! You are a SNORT!’ But as it shudders and grinds into motion he cannot escape. ‘I want my mother!’ he shouts. But at this climactic moment, his fate is suddenly reversed. The shovel drops him back in his nest, just as his mother is returning home, and the two are united, much to their delight, and the baby bird tells his mother about the adventure he had looking for her.”

My brother-in-law is not a particular fan of this book.  He sort of sees it as taking place in this post-apocalyptic hellscape where there’s hardly any color and huge pieces of machinery that influence the daily lives of the characters.  Which, to my mind, rather than rendering the book awful makes it FRIGGIN’ AWESOME to consider.  Somebody turn this puppy into a YA novel and I’ll guarantee the millions.  Maybe.

A little background on my man, P.D.  Actually his name was Philip Dey Eastman and like a lot of picture book illustrators he started out as a Disney animators.  Then WWII came along and he started doing “picture planning for animated sequences in orientation and training films”.  And who, you might ask, was the head of his unit?  Just a fellow going by the name of Ted Geisel.  Yup.  The Seuss himself.  Eastman went on later to create Mr. Magoo and then he started freelancing.  So Geisel approached him about writing for his Beginner Books series and a career was born, starting with Sam and the Firefly.  You can see his site here.

You can hear it read in a kind of Reading Rainbow way here:

Or, a bit more lively, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXLQDZgMmUI&feature=embed

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Ben Collinsworth says:

    A favorite of mine from probably infancy. “You are not my mother, you are a SNORT!” – Toddler me, being petulant. Also, this book and the Berenstein Bears taught me that most mothers in the animal kingdom wear polka dots.

  2. My kids wouldn’t let me leave this page until they had watched both videos. Now my daughter is reciting it to herself in the next room. Naturally, since this was one of my votes, they’re pretty familiar with it, too!

  3. Sondy says:

    Oh, I love this book! I was just quoting it to my co-worker, “How could I be your mother? I am a cow,” said the cow. Her response? “So much for blended families.” (She’s got a point.)

    When I was writing about it, I remembered more about getting that book from my mother. It was after my little sister was born, so I was only 4 years old. I don’t think it was for my birthday – I think it was in honor of my being able to read. But I think why it was so special, was I remember it being shiny and new. Come to think of it, all the other Beginner books we had must have been bought for my older brother and sister. They were definitely more worn and beat up. So this was extra special because it was bought for ME. And I could READ it!

  4. Elle Librarian says:

    I’ll admit this book wasn’t on my “top 10″ list, but it’s always been near and dear to my heart . . . and definitely featured in every single one of my “Mother’s Day” storytimes.

  5. Louise says:

    The pluckiness of the baby bird is what I always loved best about this story – that and the certainty, even through all the failures, that eventually the bird family will be reunited.