Photo of books of the top mother figures in children's literature, including Anne of Green Gables, My Mum Tracy Beaker and Michelle Obama's Becoming

Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

Tracy Beaker from My Mum Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson & Nick Sharratt (2018)

We first met and fell in love with the outspoken and hilarious Tracy in The Story of Tracy Beaker whilst she was living in a children’s home aka The Dumping Ground. Tracy has since grown up and is now a single mum to her own lovely daughter Jess. In My Mum Tracy Beaker, Tracy and Jess are the ultimate team and each other’s biggest cheerleaders despite being total opposites. Tracy is loud and funny whereas Jess is shy and quiet. And if you know Tracy Beaker, you know you can’t ever mess with her daughter!

Dr. Kate Murry from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)

Dr. Kate Murry from A Wrinkle in Time is inspiring to say the least. She’s an accomplished microbiologist, a mother to four equally brilliant children, and a pillar of strength in the face of her husband’s disappearance. And despite the pain she feels, Dr. Murry is ever the optimist and holds her family together without complaint. It’s no surprise, with a mother like that, that Meg and her younger brother Charles have the courage to go and search for their father.

Mama from Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o & Vashti Harrison (2019)

Sulwe’s skin is the colour of midnight. She wishes she could be bright like her mother and sister who are the colour of dawn and high noon, respectively. Sulwe tries to make herself brighter with make-up and by eating only the lightest, brightest foods. It’s then that her mama imparts some powerful words of wisdom: "Brightness is not in your skin, my love. Brightness is just who you are." Thanks to her kind and strong mama, Sulwe is taken on a magical journey where she learns that there is beauty in every shade.

Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (1908)

Anne Shirley was not what Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew expected when they asked for an orphan boy to help them on the farm. Anne is imaginative, passionate, and a big chatterbox – the opposite of the stern and stony-faced Marilla, who often scolds her adopted daughter for her unorthodox behaviour. But under that tough exterior, Marilla adores Anne and eventually voices how proud she is. Love is a powerful and transformative thing!

Jennifer Honey from Matilda by Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (1988)

Despite Matilda being incredibly gifted, her parents are uninterested in her, and her headteacher Miss Trunchbull is only interested in crushing her spirit. However, her class teacher – and later adoptive parent – Miss Honey appreciates Matilda from the get-go. She encourages Matilda to never stop dreaming or learning despite the negativity she faces. Miss Honey’s own story also leads Matilda to discover the true power of her amazing brain…

Marmee March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Marmee March in Little Women is the perfect mother. She works hard to care for her family whilst her husband is away at war; looks after the house; and counsels and consoles her four daughters. She’s also unconventional for the time period, in that she wants her daughters to be well educated and doesn’t encourage them to marry for money (despite them being poor). Marmee has incredible emotional strength, and it’s fair to say Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are very lucky to have her as their mum.

Grandmother from The Witches by Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (1983)

It takes a strong woman to not only raise her grandson (after his parents pass away) but also outsmart all the English witches as well as The Grand High Witch herself! The grandmother in Roald Dahl’s beloved tale is a formidable character. She’s a retired cigar-smoking witch hunter, and has taught her grandson all about witches and how to spot them. It’s thanks to her quick-thinking, expertise, and bravery that the pair triumph in this story.

Moominmamma from Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson (1948)

Moominmamma is the definition of cool, calm, and collected. It’s thanks to her that Moominhouse runs so smoothly. She loves her family more than anything – even her treasured handbag that contains everything you ever need in an emergency. And so strong is her love for Moomintroll, that when he is transformed into an ugly, spindly creature after climbing into the Hobgoblin's hat during a game of hide-and-seek, Moominmamma is the only one who believes it’s really him. And her belief in her son is what ultimately changes him back: "You see, I shall always know you whatever happens."

Nana from Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena (2015)

It’s time to shout out to another very special grandmother. In Last Stop on Market Street, CJ and his grandmother have just been to church and are now travelling on the bus to the soup kitchen they help out at. CJ can’t help but be jealous of his friend Colby whose dad has a car, and questions why their neighbourhood isn’t as nice as some of the others. So, his wise grandmother tenderly teaches CJ that there is beauty all around them and there are far more valuable things in life than fancy cars and houses.

Isabel Pullman from Wonder by R. J. Palacio (2012)

No one fights more fiercely for her son than Isabel Pullman. Auggie Pullman is your average ten-year-old boy – however, unlike his peers, Auggie was born with a facial abnormality that makes him stand out. Although frightened for him, Isabel is determined for her son to lead as normal a life as possible, so she stops home-schooling him and encourages Auggie to go to a real school. And despite the stares and comments he receives, Isabel is endlessly positive, happy, and strong for her son.

Michelle Obama from Becoming: Adapted for Younger Readers by Michelle Obama (2021)

Born in Chicago, Michelle Obama’s childhood was a humble one. Through hard work and determination, Michelle went on to become a successful lawyer, a loving mother to two daughters, and the first African-American First Lady of the United States. She also started her Let Girls Learn initiative with the goal to provide better education opportunities for girls around the world. Her bestselling memoir has been adapted for younger readers so you can be inspired by this real-life powerhouse mum!

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