With Mother’s Day fast approaching, can you believe it is tomorrow!? I thought it would be the ideal time to share a review of a truly wonderful book. My daughter and I were asked to take a look at The Strongest Mum so we could share our thoughts. We have also been very lucky, as we have had the chance to ask the author, Nicola Kent some questions about her book!
The Strongest Mum is a book with a very important message, and it is especially poignant for me, being a mum with a chronic illness as the book discusses that parent/child relationship and teaches young children the importance of helping each other.
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Title: The Strongest Mum
Author & Illustrator: Nicola Kent
Blurb: Little Bear is sure that no-one is as strong as his mum. She can carry anything: his bike, Zebra’s shopping, Elephant’s carpet and even . . . Flamingo’s piano! And of course, there’s ALWAYS room in her handbag for Little Bear’s treasures. But even mums can get tired and need a helping hand sometimes, as Little Bear learns when Mum takes on one thing too many, with hilarious and heart-warming consequences.
The Strongest Mum is a warm, funny and original story about a parent-child relationship, perfect for learning about helping each other out. Packed full of endearing animal characters, it is sure to delight young children. Nicola Kent’s bright, jewel-like colours and eye-catching illustrations make this a truly stunning picture book debut.
Age Range: 3-6 years
Published: 8th February 2018
Review: I want to start by saying that both my daughter and I love this book, and we have read it so many times already in the past few months. The Strongest mum is often chosen by my daughter as her bedtime story, and she loves both looking at the gorgeous illustrations and having the story read to her.
My daughter and I read a lot of books, but The Strongest Mum really stands out for me. I think this is because of the lovely message which runs through the book – that it is important to help each other – even our parents. As a parent with a chronic illness, I have had to watch as my daughter has learn, at a young age, that although I do try, I am not invincible and I cannot do everything. Even though she is still tiny, at four, I can no longer carry her and it breaks my heart because I want too – but like Little Bear’s Mummy I need to rest so we can carry on with our adventures.
The message about helping each other, and the fact that parents need help too is a tricky one to discuss with small children, but I think that Nicola Kent gets it so right in The Strongest Mum. The book gives a wonderful starting point for the discussion with young children. At four, my daughter is right in the middle of the age range of the book and we have had some very interesting discussions after reading The Strongest Mum. Discussions about helping each other and about people who help us.
The illustrations are wonderful and Nicola Kent has created all the illustrations as well as writing the book. My daughter and I both love the ‘bird’s eye view of mum’s bag’ page. The colours throughout are so eye-catching and the animals are all so cute, especially Little Bear, I love the character so much, and I love that he collects special treasures.
I would definitely recommend The Strongest Mum for any children who are in the 3-6 years age bracket as I think the lesson it introduces is an important lesson for all children to learn. I think The Strongest Mum discusses the topic in a relevant and thought-provoking way, we learn along with Little Bear (and his mummy).
We were lucky enough to be able to ask Nicola Kent some questions about The Strongest Mum…
We really love the story of Bear and his amazing mummy…
Thank you! I’m so glad you like it.
What is the inspiration behind The Strongest Mum?
Generally ideas just pop into my head, and this one popped in pretty fully formed. It’s only later that you start to unpick the inspiration and I suppose it’s loosely based on my own experiences of becoming a bit overwhelmed by all the things I had to keep on top of when my children were very young. What’s interesting, and really rewarding, is that the story seems to resonate with other mothers whatever their own issues or circumstances. As well as making them laugh, the book has brought several women to tears, so it’s obviously striking a chord!
I remember a period when my daughter was two and my son was a newborn and I was just at full capacity. We lived in a first floor flat and I was home alone with them all day. We were getting ready to go out one day – I’d packed up all the bags: the nappies, the snacks, the water, the spare clothes, the entertainments, the wipes. Anyone with children of that age knows that just leaving the house can feel like a miracle – just when you think you’re ready one of them does a poo/falls over/has a tantrum… Anyway, finally we were out on the landing and I locked the flat door and looked down and realised I’d forgotten to put any shoes on! Sometimes when you’re a mum, you are the last person you remember to look after, and I think that’s what the book is really about – remembering to be a good parent to yourself.
There’s a second theme in the book which comes from Little Bear’s adoration of nature’s treasures. My son is 8 now and still finds little pine cones or conkers or lovely leaves that I end up carrying for him. I hope there’s a message in the book that says this love of nature is something that comes very naturally to children and it’s something I think it’s really important to foster and nurture. It’s easy when we’re all so busy with all the stuff of modern life to overlook our more primitive instincts and I think they come out in our children and that we can learn a lot as adults spending time with children. So it’s also about allowing yourself, as a parent, to sometimes slow down to their pace and see the world through their eyes and with their sense of wonder.
Why did you choose to use bears in the story instead of, say, humans or other animals?
It’s funny, they were just always going to be bears, from the very first pencil squiggles in my sketchbook! Once again, that was just an instinct, but thinking about it in retrospect I think there’s a clear lineage of very fine bears in children’s books, who tend to represent the most decent and kind traits in humans, and I wanted to this family to have those qualities and to belong to that set. I wanted Mother Bear in The Strongest Mum to be a really kind, good, down-to-earth mum and to show that even someone like her could, on occasion, be pushed too far.
Some stories are suited to being told through anthropomorphised animals, I think, to remove them one step from real life. It can allow you to explore poignant themes leaving a gap for children and their adults to explore and digest them without them feeling too close to home.
Are Little Bear and his mummy going to have any more adventures?
I think they could – I’ve got a couple of funny thoughts about how their story could continue – but I’m working on lots of other ideas too so we’ll have to see!
The illustrations are wonderful, I especially love the bird’s eye view of mum’s bag – which illustration in the book did you love creating the most?
I’m so glad you like them! The mum’s bag was really fun to do, just thinking of all the things that could go in it, then looking in my own bag and feeling slightly horrified! So that one’s definitely up there. But I also loved creating the last spread – partly because I love drawing buildings, and also because it felt so nice to be leaving the characters in such good shape.
My daughter also had asked a couple of questions when we were reading the book and talking about it.
Is Bear’s mummy a superhero?
That’s a very good question! In the Turkish edition of the book they have changed the name to “My Mum is a Superhero.” I suppose she’s a sort of every day super hero – but in a cardigan not a cape. We all have at least one of them in our lives!
What is your favourite planet? (She is asking everyone this at the moment!)
I love this question! I hope this isn’t too predictable but I think it’s Planet Earth. This is because it’s my home and because I love the things that grow and live here, the streams and mountains and the rich variety of life, and also because I think it needs some special care right now.
I want to say a big thank you to Nicola for taking the time to answer our questions. We loved reading The Strongest Mum, and I love the idea of superheroes wearing cardigans instead of capes! And if you like the sound of The Strongest Mum too, it’s available on Amazon* and in other bookshops.
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We were sent a copy of The Strongest Mum (and an illustrated tea towel) to review however all opinions and words are my own, with the exception of the blurb (above in italics) and Nicola Kent’s answers to our questions (also above in italics).