________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 35. . . .May 14, 2010


The Mischievous Mom at the Art Gallery.

Rebecca Eckler & Erica Ehm. Illustrated by Carrie Hartman.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55470-267-1.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

** /4


I have never really been a fan of journalist Rebecca Eckler. Both her single urban diva and her new mummy phases seem, to an older librarian of a clearly different generation, annoyingly self-indulgent. In any case, here she is with her first picture book. It has been co-authored by former MuchMusic v-jay Erica Ehm, who currently hosts Yummy Mummy, "a parenting show for the music-video generation" (now I know I'm too old!). American Carrie Hartman (Child of Mine, It's Hard to be a Verb) illustrates with her signature bright pictures full of lively human figures.

   After a day of serious endeavour at school, where toys are shared and snacks are healthy, Joshua and Jessie, a sister and brother pair who look to be about 10 and 8-years-old, wait eagerly for their mother to arrive home from work.

Josh and Jessie's mom was not like them. She was never scared of anything. She loved getting messy. And she was very, very mischievous.

internal art     On this particular night, they all dress up, and their mischievous mom takes them to a fancy party at the Art Gallery. Mom has promised to "follow the rules." After a cursory viewing of the paintings and sculpture on display, a staid cocktail party (clearly thick with art snobs) is bypassed for a trip to a supply room. Here, paint, glue and huge sheets of paper are the focus of a creative binge for the three. They parade out past the astonished gallery-goers with their work furled like a roll of carpet over their shoulders, leaving painty footprints as they go. The story is told in a straightforward narrative which gets more breathless as the action picks up. When mom indicates that they should go through the door marked 'Do –– Not –– Enter: V.I.P.Only,' this passage follows:

"No, Mom! We're not V.I.Ps," said Josh.

"We can't go in there!" added Jessie. "Let''s just go home."

"Come on, kids," their mother called, heading toward the door. "Of course we're V.I.Ps! You're the most Very Important People in my life. Plus, it's an adventure!"

"No!" yelled Josh. "Mom, you promised to follow the rules!"

"Yeah! You promised!" cried Jessie.

But their voices were lost in the noisy room. They had no choice but to follow their mom.

     Eckler and Ehm's dedication to the book says that it is for "all the parents who worry that they never have enough time to have fun with their kids……When you arrive home, dare to become a Mischievous Mom for your kids. We believe the best gift you can give them is a love of adventure and a belief that anything is possible –– if you have the guts to go for it……" There is a certain amount of humour in this turnabout of children who are straight-laced and worried about getting into trouble, and their free-spirited mother ready to try anything. But is the whole scenario likely to be more worrying than liberating for youngsters: what are the rules? When is it thoughtless or dangerous not to follow them? I showed this book to two mothers with young children, and their take on it was the same as mine. The absence of any consequences for "going out of bounds," or discussion of when rules could be bent, was troubling for us all. Cautiously recommended for large picture book collections –– and for fans of Rebecca Eckler!


Ellen Heaney is Head, Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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