Lolita‘s Charlotte Haze. Carrie‘s Margaret White. Corinne Dollanganger of Flowers in the Attic. Medea.
Those aren’t the mothers we’re talking about this month.
For this month’s 17 Things, we’re celebrating the heroic moms of fiction. The type of mother who, as J.K. Rowling puts it,”proves herself the equal of any warrior.” The mom whose “sympathetic voice make(s) you want to burst into tears,” as Sophie Kinsella writes. These literary ladies save the world and keep dinner hot, play bridge and front punk bands, run both schools and their children’s love-lives. Their parenting styles range from salty to sweet and prove there’s more than one way to be a great mother, and for that matter, an extraordinary woman.
1) Molly Weasley. Not just because she’s a good mom, but she’s a mom to everyone who comes into her home, including our beloved Harry. It doesn’t matter if you already have a mother, she will love you the same as all her children. Plus, she makes a mean sweater and does stuff like this…
Gwen Cole, COLD SUMMER, Sky Pony Press, Spring ’17
2) I’m just not sure it gets any better than Tami Taylor of Friday Night Lights. We get a glimpse at everything. She teaches a daily masterclass in sassy teenage daughter dealings, gives birth to and raises an infant, and serves as a constant mentor for Dillon’s high school students. Her handling of issues in the household are matched only by her successes outside of it. Her role as school counselor, and eventually as principal, are the catalyst for discussions about family dynamics in the final seasons. Those discussions allow the show to demand equality between spouses (and a frustration with standard gender expectations) that most sitcoms choose to avoid. She definitely makes mistakes, too, but owns up to them when she does. Like my own mom, she’s a steadfast anchor for a family and life that faces unpredictable storms. It’s not hard to imagine just how far everyone would have drifted without her.
Scott Reintgen, THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS, Crown Children’s ’17
3) I have to go with Marmee from Little Women. Not only did she keep the home fires burning during the Civil War, was a loving, patient mother to four wildly different daughters, she helped everybody in the neighbourhood! There have been many occasions in my life that I wish I had Marmee on speed dial!
Wendy McLeod MacKnight, IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG-FACE!, Sky Horse/Sky Pony, Summer ’17
4) This is a toughie, but my absolute favorite would have to be Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables. She’s salty, and more than a little unyielding, but then I love salty. More importantly, she and Matthew have so much love for Anne. Birth mother or no, Marilla is my favorite maternal figure hands down!
Jilly Gagnon, #FAMOUS, HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, Summer ’17
5) Jocelyn Fray from The Mortal Instruments. While she’s absent for a good deal of the series, she’s strong, supportive of Clary, and she’s an individual beyond being in the mom role. Also, Alana from Saga! She is badass and all that matters to her is keeping Hazel safe and happy. Since she and Marko are already causing all kinds of global trouble by even being together and because Hazel represents everything people fear, it’s not easy to keep Hazel safe. Plus, Alana is hilarious.
TE Carter, I STOP SOMEWHERE, Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, Fall ’17
6) My favorites (sorry, I couldn’t pick just one) are the mothers in The Joy Luck Club, Sethe (Beloved) and Max’s mom from Where the Wild Things Are. With the exception of Max’s mother, who is invisible and whose story we don’t know, these mothers are deeply scarred and deeply flawed, and this informs the way they treat their children, with often tragic results. But they love their children, they do the best they can, and they survive, somehow, and I love them for it.
As for Max’s mom–oh, I just love that Max found his dinner waiting for him when he returned from the land of the wild things–and it was still hot. To me, that speaks volumes, and it gets me every time.
Misa Sugiura, IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET, HarperCollins/HarperTeen, Spring ’17
7) Mrs. Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Fiction’s most mortifying mum!
Rebecca Denton, GOING SOLO, Little, Brown/Atom Books, Winter ’17
8) Dorothy Quimby, Ramona’s mom! She’s so damn REAL. She works as a receptionist. She argues with Ramona’s dad. She loves her daughter, but doesn’t love when her daughter, say, paints herself blue. “The Quimbys were a family who worried about money,” Beverly Cleary writes. That was a real comfort to kids like me who grew up with a single mom and constant money worries. Dorothy Quimby was like my mom: she did the best she could on any given day. But she was only human, and like any human, she made mistakes!
Bree Barton, BLACK ROSE, HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, Fall ’17
9) Not all mothers sew costumes for the school play or spend hours making homemade baked goods. That’s why my vote for goes to Harriet the Spy‘s mother, Mrs. Welsch. Although Harriet’s mom was more committed to playing bridge than spending time with her only daughter, Mrs. Welsch did have the common sense to employ the World’s Greatest Nanny, Ole Golly, to pick up the parenting slack. Which goes to show: there’s more than one way to be a good mom.
Melissa Roske, KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, Charlesbridge ’17
10) Moominmama from Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. She loves coffee and pancakes. She’s adventurous, but nurturing. She has everything anyone needs in her handbag. She’s everything I want to be as a mom!
Joanne O’Sullivan, BETWEEN TWO SKIES, Candlewick, Spring ‘17
11) One of my favorite fictional moms is Mia from Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francescsa. The book chronicles her battle with depression, but throughout her struggles, we see a woman who is fierce, creative, compassionate and so strong. She’s amazing!
Katie Nelson, THE DUKE OF BANNERMAN PREP, Sky Pony/Sky Horse, Spring ‘17
12) Hands down, my favorite fictional mom at the moment is Daenerys Targaryen. She’s doing the best she can with some serious disciplinary challenges. I’m sure a lot of moms feel like they’re raising a brood of fire-breathing monsters, but at least you don’t have to worry about them barbecuing the neighbors’ goats. And let’s not forget that she’s a single mom raising triplets. Not easy, folks. Not easy…
A.V. Geiger, FOLLOW ME BACK, Sourcebooks Fire, Summer ’17
13) My favorite literary mom is Lilly Evans, who gave her life to save Harry. Even though you only ever really see her in flash backs, I love her.
Tricia Levenseller, DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING, Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, Winter ’17
14) My favorite fictional mom has got to be Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time: a badass scientist who raised four kids by herself while her husband was trapped on another planet. She’s a career lady who also keeps it all together on the home front. I also love Mia’s mom, Helen Thermopolis, from The Princess Diaries and another Mia’s mom, Kat Hall from If I Stay. They’re, respectively, an artist and a punk rocker, but moms first and foremost. I could name a hundred more!
Rebecca Christiansen, MAYBE IN PARIS, Sky Pony/Sky Horse, Spring ’17
15) Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web, who, like Lily Evans Potter, sacrificed herself for her children. And she gave some pretty solid life advice as well.
Christina June, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, Blink/HC, May ’17
16) Have to give my vote to Joy Newsome in “Room.” Absolutely incredible parenting in a horrible situation.
Karen McManus, ONE OF US IS LYING, Random House/Delacorte, Summer ‘17
17) Mrs. Coulter from the His Dark Materials trilogy. She’s not the best mother — I mean, she’s probably not even considered anywhere near a good mother. But she’s a complicated character, that’s for sure. Can she be cruel and torturous? Yes. But often the evil things she’s doing are in pursuit of the safety of her daughter, and ultimately she sacrifices herself for Lyra. Maybe it all evens out, in the end.