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Originally published May 6, 2010 at 7:00 PM | Page modified May 7, 2010 at 12:17 PM

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5 good kids' books about mothers

Kids' books: A librarian's list of great children's books includes the longtime favorite "Are You My Mother" and the beautifully illustrated "My Mother Is So Smart!".

Scripps Howard News Service

Celebrate Mother's Day with one of these great children's books, including a longtime favorite:

• It's a classic tale of mother and child. A baby bird hatches from his egg and immediately begins searching for his mother, who has gone hunting for food.

As yet unaware of what his mother looks like, the baby bird asks a kitten, a cow, a dog and even a plane and junked car if each of them is his mother. The answer is always no, and it takes a steam shovel and a bit of serendipity to eventually reunite mother and child in their nest.

Sound familiar? Fifty years ago, P.D. Eastman came up with this simple, silly and satisfying plot for an easy reader called "Are You My Mother?" (Random House, $8.99; ages 3-7). Now, five decades later, the book remains a favorite with kids, and also with their parents and grandparents, many of whom proudly recall it as one of the first books they read on their own.

"Are You My Mother?" is part of the Beginner Books series created by Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. Eastman and Geisel had served together in the military, and teamed up again to write and illustrate entertaining books for kids just learning to read.

Like Dr. Seuss, Eastman believed that humorous books, with lots of visual jokes, helped take away some of the stress and frustration of learning to read. And, like Dr. Seuss, Eastman had his own distinctive artistic style; his illustrations have a cartoonlike quality to them that particularly appeals to kids.

Among Eastman's other books are several more classics, including "Go, Dog. Go!" and "Sam and the Firefly."

"The Beginner Book series brought together some of the most impressive talent in the children's-book field at that time,"said children's-book expert Anita Silvey.

"Both 'Go, Dog. Go!' and 'Are You My Mother?' frequently get mentioned when I ask adults about their favorite books," Silvey added. "I've had people quote the entire text to me — years after they have read it."

• Mama isn't feeling well, so Dad and the kids tell her to stay in bed while they do the cooking. Everything goes swimmingly until Dad and the kids finally notice that they've made a huge mess, which must be cleaned up before Mama sees it.

In "Taking Care of Mama" (Putnam, $16.99), author/illustrator Mitra Modarressi tells a story that will resonate with parents and kids everywhere. Modarressi's gently rhyming text works well with her watercolor illustrations, which feature a family of raccoons and which are filled with comic details. (Ages 3-6.)

• Inspired by his own mother, beloved author/illustrator Tomie dePaola has written a salute to moms everywhere in "My Mother Is So Smart!" (Putnam, $16.99). Beautifully illustrated in dePaola's trademark style, this book offers a simple text focused on the many things moms can do, from making the best cookies to driving a delivery truck. DePaola's highly autobiographical book has a whizz-bang ending, as young Tomie tells his principal: "My mother is so smart that she can stand on her head." And so she does, right there in the principal's office. As dePaola writes in a note on the book jacket: "For many months later, the teachers would chuckle and ask my mother, 'How are the acrobatics going, Mrs. dePaola?' "(Ages 3-6.)

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• Karla Kuskin had a knack for writing humorous poetry for children, as she demonstrates in "A Boy Had a Mother Who Bought Him a Hat" (HarperCollins, $16.99). Kuskin, who died last year at the age of 77, uses a cumulative rhyme to tell the zany tale of a boy with an adoring mother who buys him all kinds of things, from a red wool hat to a mouse in a blue house to some "very nice skis." Each time the boy gets something new, he just adds it to his collection so that, by the time the book concludes, the boy is wildly dressed and carrying a cello and a mouse as he races off on his latest gift — an elephant. The cheerful illustrations by Kevin Hawkes further boost the comedy quotient of this book, which is an updated version of a book first published in 1976. (Ages 4-7.)

• In "A Mother's Song" (Sterling, $14.95), author Janet Lawler takes readers through a year in which a mother and child enjoy nature together, from walking in the snow to picking apples. Lawler's rhyming text scans well, and readers also will enjoy the expressive illustrations by Kathleen Kemly. (Ages 3-6.)

Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.

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