Written by York Region District School Board Teacher Librarian Geoffrey Ruggero
Picture books are often written with young children as their intended audience. In Tough Like Mum, Lana Button provides adults with important messaging that we need to be reminded of.
Kim’s mum is tough. She works hard to provide for her daughter and keep her happy. But sometimes, Kim can tell her mum is not feeling well, as Kim must step up and take care of them both. Other parents in the neighbourhood say that Kim is strong just like her mother, even though she is just a child. Whether it’s making meals, getting ready for school, or just putting on a brave face, Kim shows that she can handle it.
Educators and parents often say they know how children are feeling. But do we? Sure we were once that age, but a lot has happened since then. Do we really remember what it was like to experience things for the first time? Do we really remember what it was like to deal with adult problems at such a young age? The world is different, how can we truly say that we know how the children of today are feeling?
Lana Button writes most of her picture books to “show the perspective and situation of a child that might be going unnoticed.” For educators, we try our best to get to know each one of our students on a personal level. Yet there are always things happening in their lives that we don’t know about. Young people can be very good at hiding their true feelings, just like Kim does in Tough Like Mum. When surrounded by their peers, children do not want to show their vulnerable side, so they often put on a tough persona.
This story is an important reminder for educators to look for small signs that their students may be dealing with something difficult outside of school.
One particular line from the story is an important reminder for many adults. There is a box to check on a permission form, that indicates needing financial support for a field trip. “Mum never checks the ‘I need help’ box,” is a powerful message that Lana says she hopes will help people “push past the fear of being judged, to accept help from others.” Especially during these trying times, it is alright to accept that you need help, and can look to others for support. Every adult needs to hear and know this.
In the end, Lana hopes “the reader is left feeling that Kim and her mum are tough because they have each other, they have the support of their community, and they’re going to be just fine.” The timing of the release of this story is important for many reasons, during a time when we should all be leaning on one another.
Tough Like Mum, illustrated by Carmen Mok and published by Tundra Books, is available now.
Since jumping at the opportunity to become a Teacher-Librarian, Geoffrey Ruggero has transformed the Learning Commons at a Maple Public School into a modern learning space. His passion for reading and making inspires students to bring their learning to life in many unique ways.