Tough Like Mum

Tundra. Apr. 2021. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780735265981.
K-Gr 4–Readers learn, through the perspective of a young girl, how she manages on days her mother cannot get out of bed. Her independence has come from necessity: She can make her own lunch with whatever is left, she can anticipate what dinner will be, she can look out the window to see how other children walking to school are dressed and if there is a “cloud coming out of their mouths,” indicating cold. Throughout, she’s anxious about a field trip that requires money and a signed permission form. Readers see how she swallows the hurt she feels when a boy makes fun of her lunch. Still, this young girl is resourceful, positive, and “tough like Mum.” She prepares cold tomato soup for both of them and says, “Eat. You’ll feel better.” The mother does, signs the slip, and checks the box requesting financial aid. It’s not clear if the mother is depressed, but it is obvious she has great burdens weighing her down, and yet it is also clear there is a deep, loving connection between mother and daughter and both are doing their best to cope. The appealing art, done with gouache and colored pencil, has a primitive feel. The perspective, slightly askew, may be the artist’s message that things are not quite as they should be in this household. Heartwrenching and hopeful, the book is oblique enough that some children may not catch the subtleties; educators may want to unpack its many messages about resilience slowly.
VERDICT Children who can identify with this little girl will, perhaps, find hope and strength in hearing a story similar to their own.

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