In Our Mothers' House
It takes a very wise and sensitive writer to create a picture
book on a hot button topic that doesn't end up being didactic or
having the issue overwhelm plot and characters. Patricia Polacco is
one such author. Her In Our Mothers' House is a gem in this genre.
The narrator of this lovely story is the oldest of three children
adopted by two mothers. She leads us through the family life from her
arrival on the scene to the death of her parents within a year of each
The family is very lively and well liked by most of their
neighbors. Many pitch in to help build a tree house. Almost all
participate when the family initiates a block party that goes on to
become a tradition.
There is one woman, Mrs. Lockner, who never lets her children
join in on the fun. Usually she just looks crabby. At one point she
tells the mothers, "I don't appreciate what you two are." Fortunately
she is not allowed to steal the show.
The heart of the narrative is the traditions that strengthen the
glue that holds the familiy together (telling stories in front of the
fireplace, creating Halloween costumes, celebrating holidays with
extended family) and the stand out experiences (involving the
neighborhood in building a tree house, adopting two puppies to cheer
up all three children who are getting over the flu) that will be
passed down over the years...
...in other words, what you or I would put in our family
narratives. Which is the point this delightful book shows rather than
Polacco's dynamic artwork is perfect for her story. The
expressions on people's (and dogs') faces and their postures convey
their emotions and relationships with each other in a way more
conventional artwork wouldn't.
No matter how your family is made up I believe you will find the
celebration of love embodied in In Our Mothers' House to be joyous and
On a personal note, my writing class that meets at the Orono Public
Library is going really well. The highlight (at least for me) is that
my friend Erin Rhoda joined us to talk about a special project she had
done for the Bangor Daily News. Everyone was fascinated by what she
had to say. It was the most attentive I have ever seen the group.
Erin had a good time too. I was especially pleased because I had come
up with this idea and instigated it's being carried out.
A great big shout out goes out to Erin and the inspiration and ethics
that go into her writing and to my writing classmates and our teacher,
Barbara, for our lively and unpredictable learning from one another
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