Who’s Your Real Mum? (Bernadette Green, illus by Anna Zobel, Scribble)
This is an exceptional book. It promises kindness, humour and insight, and absolutely delivers. Nicholas is obsessed with discovering which of Elvi’s two female parents is her ‘real mum’: a notion young Elvi calmly, resolutely and creatively rejects the very suggestion of. When asked to provide clues, Elvi proceeds to offer a plethora of her ‘real’ mother’s fantastical talents and interests: she ‘speaks fluent gorilla’, she is a pirate, she ‘can clip a dragon’s toenails while she’s standing on her head and eating a bowl of spaghetti’. Ultimately though, Nicholas comes to understand that a ‘real’ mother is one who loves, comforts and nurtures—of course, both Elvi’s mums are her real mum. Elvi’s confidence and energetic sense of freedom are delightful, and Bernadette Green’s story presents the theme of ‘non-traditional’ families with a simplicity, sensitivity and playfulness that makes you wonder how anyone could ever feel confronted by such a concept. The detailed illustrations—reminiscent of a John Burningham universe populated with Alison Lester-esque characters—are comforting yet cheeky, and the brilliant visual device of contrasting the restrained colour palette of everyday life (nostalgic yellows/russets/pinks/browns) with the sweeping monochromatic world (bright blues) of Elvi’s mums’ imagined exploits. Who’s Your Real Mum? manages that rare combination of meaningful moral and pure narrative pleasure.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is a freelance editor, writer and reviewer, and has worked as a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop for over 10 years