Top 100 Picture Books #45: Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
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:
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. 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 EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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