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Big Mama Makes the World.
Phyllis Root & Helen Oxenbury.
Walker Books 2002.  Hb. £12.99.
 

Helen Oxenbury is a well-known British illustrator of children’s books, a winner of the Kate Greenaway medal, and Phyllis Root is an American writer of many children’s books. Together they have produced this new version of the story of the creation of the world. Creation takes six days, and each day’s creation is as in Genesis (except that the third and fourth day are interchanged from Genesis, which does feel more logical).

But, as the title will tell you, the creator is not the one in Genesis. She is Big Mama (the American edition, in its title and text, names her as “Big Momma”), who Helen Oxenbury describes as “part Buddha, part housewife”, and who also has a baby to take care of. The first page of the book says “When Big Mama made the world, she didn’t mess about. There was water, water everywhere, and Big Mama saw what needed to be done. She rolled up her sleeves and went to it. It wasn’t easy, either, with that little baby on her hip. But nothing stops Big Mama. Not for a second.”

This is an excellent gift for children of an age to appreciate a book in large type with only a few words on each page, and each page of text with a page of illustration. It’s also a delight for pagan adults. In Big Mama’s words on looking at each day’s creation: “Good. That’s very, very good.”

Wood and Water 82, Spring 2003
© Daniel Cohen
 

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