{book} the meanest mother on earth

on

DAY 01:

Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth

by Kate Klise, Illus. M. Sarah Klise

(Harcourt Children’s Books, 2010).

I love when a Picture Book is as entertaining for the parent as for the child—especially knowing that the likelihood that that book will be read countless times is pretty good. Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth is one such find. Not that I was in much doubt it would be as enjoyable as it is. We adore the Klise siblings, discovering them first with 43 Cemetery Road, then Letters from Camp, and Kate’s Grounded.

The circus has just arrived and Little Rabbit knows he cannot go to see them until his disaster of a playroom is clean. He tries to clean it, but the task is overwhelming. And does his mom care?! No!! So he sneaks out and Little Rabbit makes a deal with the Ring Master to allow to him join the circus if he can sell 100 tickets to see the “maternal monstrosity” that is The Meanest Mother on Earth!

Kate and M. Sarah are a great storytelling team. Enjoy the diction and the alliteration and the Klise’s unfailing sense of humor:

“Come see the Meanest Mother on Earth,” Little Rabbit sang. “She has two heads. And she uses them to think up mean ways to punish the small and innocent.’

“Really?” said the mother kangaroo. “I find that hard to believe.”

“I can believe it,” murmured the young kangaroo [from his mother’s pouch].

You can see how Little Rabbit came up with the idea for a two-headed beast on the spot, selling his tickets to a mother kangaroo with the young one in her pouch. And there is little wonder at the determination of Little Rabbit in his belief that his mother is the Meanest on Earth with the summery blue backdrop and the glamour of the circus just down the rolling flower-strewn hillside. Little Rabbit is resourceful and creative. You can see his creativity in the text, but also in the images of his room and the gazillion objects therein. And we come to know that creativity and resourcefulness is not only encouraged but modeled by his mother.

The last page stumped me initially. Little Rabbit falls asleep before finishing his confession that he doesn’t really believe she is the Meanest Mother on Earth. Mother Rabbit finishes where he drops-off saying,  “I know I’m not the Meanest Mother on Earth. I’m the luckiest.” I got that the mother has to have a confidence outside of her child’s approval—because as evidenced, she won’t always have it, but need she feel lucky at the end of the kind of day she just had with her child?! My notes [translated somewhat] in thinking about this and the story Kate and M.Sarah are sharing: “In evaluating herself as “the luckiest,” Mother Rabbit celebrates the creativity of her child even as she remembers his youth—consistent in her apparent support of his creativity even as she seems to trust him to learn his lesson. She is confident in his ability to make mistakes and learn from them.” I am thinking too how stunning a portrayal the Mother Rabbit is in her grace and compassion. She was firm with Little Rabbit on the point of his cleaning up his mess. But when Little Rabbit compounds the situation with a fresh mess–dragging her trust right smack into the middle of it!—and there is no hesitation on the part of the Mother to enact her own creativity and resourcefulness. Peanuts were being thrown people!!—and Mother saves the day. (and really, why am I surprised by this?!)

The warm, colorful, and ultimately soothing color palette diffuses the more stressful aspects of the story and the potential humiliation in remembering/witnessing such awful behavior. That the characters are animals doesn’t hurt either; who else but a skunk could “scoff” the claim that their teeth were greener than Mother Rabbit’s? don’t answer that.

The dedication for the book reads: “To our mother, Marjorie Klise, and mothers everywhere.”  Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth will be a fun book for kids visually and commiseratively, but perhaps the greater pleasure will the be the boost of confidence to the parents reading it with them.

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{images belong to M. Sarah Klise & Harcourt, the second is from the jacket flap}

I discovered there are several Little Rabbit books (note their love of word-play): Shall I Knit You a Hat? A Christmas Yarn (Henry Holt); Why Do You Cry? Not a Sob Story (Henry Holt); Imagine Harry (Harcourt); and Little Rabbit and the Night Mare (Harcourt)

I also found this cool script for kids to host a mini-theater production of Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth in the true dramatic fashion necessary to carry this book off. Seriously, it must be read with flair!

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