Pagan parents are often lacking for faith-themed books to share with our kids. That’s why I was super excited to discover Earth Mother on prominent display at our local library. Along with the title, the cover art and lush illustrations promise a nature-based story with global themes. It does not disappoint.
Earth Mother (Walker & Company, 2005) is a picture book written by prolific children’s author Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon (winners of the Caldecott Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Award). The story follows “Earth Mother” (or Mother Earth) as she moves through the day. She begins at dawn by fanning sacred smoke in four directions (a pagan ritual if ever there was one) and continues around the world doing Nature’s work: decorating insects and leaves, bringing water, wind, and snow, planting seeds of seasons-to-come.
Earth Mother is depicted as a beautiful, dark-skinned woman, but She is not rooted to any one region or culture; She walks from mountain tops to river valleys, strides savannahs and deserts; with each passing hour the landscape changes, as does the pattern of her colorful garb. The message: all of Earth is a part of Her creation (and vice versa).
Along her journey, Earth Mother encounters Man, then Frog, and then Mosquito. Each greets her with words of praise and gratitude, but also a complaint: life would be perfect if only… Though she is mute (as Gods are wont to be), the illustrators have gifted Earth Mother with a face as expressive and varied as her landscapes. She listens to each of Her children with sympathy, humor, love…. and though she offers no explanation or apology for what frustrates them, the answer becomes obvious to the reader; each creature is connected. Individually, we may be less than perfectly happy, but together we are a part of a whole that is balanced and good.
This is kind of a heavy concept, but it’s an important one — and not just for pagan households. The interconnectedness, diversity, and ecological balance of the earth speaks to everyone — which is probably what helped Earth Mother earn numerous commendations, including the Parents’ Gold Choice Award.
Earth Mother‘s target audience is children ages 3 – 7. Due to its subtlety and longish text for a picture book, I suspect kids on the older side of that range would appreciate it best. However, the warm and vibrant illustrations of Earth Mother and her changing world can give younger kiddos something to build upon as they begin to understand the myths and mores that we teach them. Even for grownups, Earth Mother is charming, calming, inspiring, and worth coming back to time and again. This book is definitely a keeper.
[Poetry by Shannon Connor Winward can be found in Eternal Haunted Summer, Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Literary Mama, Star*Line, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, and elsewhere. Shannon recently earned Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest for short fiction, and as an emerging artist in literature by the Delaware Division of the Arts. Her debut chapbook of literary and speculative poetry, UNDOING WINTER (Finishing Line Press), was released in 2014. In between writing, parenthood, and other madness, Shannon works to support local artists, and here and there has been familiar with a microphone. Visit her on the web atwww.shannonconnorwinward.com]