Jill Murphy’s beautifully observed picture book stories about Mrs Large, Mr Large and their four boisterous children are stories we can all relate to, whether we are child or a parent. Five Minutes’ Peace, A Quiet Night In, A Piece of Cake, All In One Piece and Mr Large in Charge are all about warm, real (if a little hectic) family life, and feature one of the best picture book mums out there. Because no matter how swept off her feet Mrs Large is, she’s always ready to laugh at herself; always happy to be beside her children.
Here at Walker HQ we went behind the scenes with Maria and Tanya in our Picture Books team to talk about the very special and unique relationship we have with our mothers and with our own children...
I'm a mum now. That's weird to say. I'm a mum. I made and own a tiny human called Ada and I would do anything and go anywhere for that roly-poly baby. And when I sing her cheesy Disney songs from my childhood as she smiles up at me from her little cot in her wee round-faced, dimple cheeked, silvery-eyed way (I'm sure she's thinking, this one is MAD), my heart literally feels like it might BURST and I have to catch my breath.
And now, NOW I understand, in so much more depth, all the things my mum did for me, my brother and sister. (Sorry it took me so long, Mum.) I understand her sleepless nights. How fiercely she always tries to protect us. How thrilled she is to be reunited with us after a stretch of time apart. I get the fierceness of her hugs, why she clasps our hands so tight. I understand the personal sacrifices my mum made so that I could have a better life. I can see now how hard she worked to feed my imagination and creativity and encourage me in all ways. I understand the dreams she has for us as children, and grown ups, and why she puts herself before her us, at all times.
I understand all the big and little things she did for me as a child, each memory like a warm pop of sunshine on my face.
I remember her making popcorn in the kitchen with the lid off so that it was like it was raining popcorn and we ran around with our mouths open. Taking us to the cinema to see all the latest films and sneaking in little sandwich bags full of sour sweets up our sleeves. Helping us set up our own 'shop' in the kitchen where we sold each other tinned food from the cupboard, or setting up a post office or library where we mostly just stamped blank paper with great fervour and charged £20 to post a letter. Making us sausages after bath time on a Saturday night and eating them in front of the fire watching Gladiator and Blind Date. She made up silly songs. She made her own Playdo. She helped us build dens. She watched as we walked up the hill to catch the school bus every school morning.
As a grown up, she sends me packages full of Tayto crisps and Monster Munch and fancy pyjamas from Tk Maxx with notes that say, "Found this One Direction advent calendar and thought it might give you a laugh." She answers all my Whatsapps with "Ahhh, that's beautiful!", even if it's my make up free, craggy morning face. She messages me every single morning to see how Ada has slept and I love that because if Ada has slept well, I have, too, and everyone is happy.
Of course, there are things I DON'T understand ... namely some of the horrendous outfits (fluorescent Benetton anyone?) she put us in as ten year olds when we didn't yet have a sense of our own style. Not cool, Mum, not cool.
My mum is strong, she is a warrior, she is ninja mum. And her strength and compassion fortifies me in my own day to day life. She inspires me to the very best mum, daughter, friend and colleague that I can be. Happy Mother's Day, Fifi.
Sitting in the front seat of the supermarket trolley with my mum steering, cycling to pick up my big sister from school, with my mum leading the way, or playing with my doll’s house next to my mum’s bed as she took (well-deserved) power naps – those were the very best places to be for me, growing up. Because, from the very beginning, my mum has made me feel like her very best friend and, because of that, because of being beside each other, all those little moments of daily life became little adventures – our little adventures – and the big moments of my life.
When I was older and spent hours at my desk studying for exams, the sound of my mum tinkering away in the next room was what steadied my nerves. I knew that I could poke my head around the corner and melodramatically cry, “Mum, seriously, I’m going to fail EVERYTHING,” and it would make me feel instantly better (and trust me, I did that a LOT). She’s always believed in me – she dreams big for me – and she only ever wants for me what I want for myself.
My mum loves fruit, she loves trees (she recognizes all of them by leaf), and – best of all – she loves being up a mulberry tree (her favourite), picking the fruit that we’ll all eat later on, sat cross-legged on the carpet in our living room. And bubble gum! Every Saturday, when we were watching movies, my mum would be in the corner blowing the hugest pink bubbles, and we’d all gather around and gape and count how long they stayed big (one … two … three … POP!). She doesn’t do this so much any more, not after the gum-in-the-hair incident of ’94, but they still feel like the biggest bubbles in the world. She still feels like the coolest.
So whenever I say goodbye to my mum, there’s always a twinge of sadness, because I realize that to go out on my own means to leave her behind. But when I set off (both pockets filled with fruit and pistachios; my mum won’t let me leave without snacks for the journey), I look back at my mum waving from the driveway, her arms crossed from the cold, her hood up from the rain, and take courage from the smile on her face. Because if she’s the last thing I see when I leave, she’ll be the first thing I see when I return.
My mum’s name means ‘Moonlight’ in Farsi, and, to me, she’s just that – my guiding beam of light. Wise and kind and calm, I need her advice when I make decisions, I need her joy when I share good news, and I need her little stories at the end of each day, however gloriously uneventful. My world just wouldn’t be whole without her. Happy Mother’s Day, Mum!
WIN a Mother's Day bouquet and book bundle
To celebrate all the wonderful mums out there, we have a special selection of picture books by Jill Murphy to give away, plus an impressive hand-tied medly of seasonal, spring Pink Champagne flowers by letterbox florist Beards and Daisies (anemones, soft white tulips, daisies and stunning coral roses).
To enter, just email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Mother's Day' in the subject line by 31st March.
Terms and conditions apply.