5 Throwback Children's Book 'Moms' That Kids Should Still Know Today

YA booksPuffin; Scholastic; HarperCollins

Mom tropes in literature run the gamut from the impossibly angelic to the cartoonishly monstrous. There's a lot to be said for the way mothers and maternal figures are represented in literary works -- including some of the children's books we loved. 


But throughout the years, in the kids' novels we've held dearly, we've come across some moms and maternal characters who have struck a chord in one way or another. Whether some might be deemed a little too perfect -- or a little too, well, not human (ahem, Charlotte's Web) -- these are just some of the many mama characters we loved in the children's literature we grew up with and plan to share with our own kiddos.

Charlotte from Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web

After the runt of a litter of piglets is rescued from slaughter, he finds his life forever changed by the titular spider of this E.B. White classic. Though little Wilbur and Charlotte are best friends, it is her protectiveness, guidance, and selflessness that ultimately save Wilbur's life, making Charlotte one of the ultimate maternal figures in children's literature. Were you ever able to look at an arachnid the same way again after? Well, probably, but it most likely took a while.

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Miss Honey from Matilda

Matilda by Roald Dahl

With a name as sweet as her personality, Miss Honey was exactly the mother figure that the young, gifted Matilda needed in this timeless Roald Dahl tale. Raised by neglectful and buffoonish parents in a stifling household, the brilliant and powerful Matilda eventually finds a home -- and acceptance -- with her teacher Miss Honey, who has become an unforgettable and beloved character in children's literary history. Just mention her name out loud in any book discussion and try not to find someone who will profess his or her love for this lady -- she was everyone's teacher and second mom.

Sarah from Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah Plain and Tall book cover

In Patricia MacLachlan's 1800s-set story, a widowed farmer sends for a mail-order bride (hey, we said it's the 1800s!) from Maine to help care for his young kids, forever changing their lives with her arrival. The children, whose mother died in childbirth, grow to love Sarah, but they fear she will return to the sea she misses so dearly. In a tale of love and the many ways a family can come together, the character Sarah has stood the test of literary time. And in a world where so many children fear and often face abandonment and loneliness, Sarah is a comforting figure that helps illustrate one of the many kinds of blended families.

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Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie book

The beloved Little House series from Laura Ingalls Wilder brought us many memorable characters -- chief among them the indomitable Ma Ingalls herself. No matter the hardships facing the frontier family's life -- and oh, were there hardships -- Ma was a steadfast source of both strength and comfort, one upon whom Pa and the children could always rely. When one stops to think of the incredible mother characters in books and media, Ma Ingalls is never far from the mind. Living that unforgiving frontier life and still managing to keep calm and carry on? Talk about mom goals.

Marmee from Little Women

Little Women book cover

The daughters of Louisa May Alcott's universally beloved nineteenth-century novel face the trials and tribulations of oncoming adulthood -- but all under the guidance of their patient, loving mother, Margaret "Marmee" March. Marmee might appear a bit perfect -- but she was also quite progressive, encouraging her daughters to be educated and hardworking rather than simply being married off. This mama was truly the moral center of her family, and not only are her principles inspiring -- but so was her way of always being there to listen and offer support to her girls. She let them make mistakes and live their lives, but she built the foundation they needed in order to do so. We may not all be quite so perfect-seeming in our lives, but Marmee's love and guidance is forever relatable in the way we try to raise our own families.

And there you have it. If you're searching for a strong mama character to share with your sons and daughters, these will hopefully provide just a few examples of where to look. Though they come from different times, different eras -- and sometimes different species -- they are forever sources of inspiration in our modern world.

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