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Big Momma Makes the World [Paperback]

Phyllis Root , Helen Oxenbury
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 8.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

March 27 2007
"Among the many creation retellings and variations, this one takes the cake." — THE HORN BOOK (starred review)

When Big Momma makes the world, she doesn’t mess around. With a baby on her hip and laundry piling up, she demands light and dark, earth and sky, creepers and crawlers, and lots of folks to trade stories with on the front porch. And when the work is done, Big Momma, she is pleased all right. "That’s good," she says. "That’s real good." With down-home language and infectious rhythms, Phyllis Root spins a creation myth like no other, brilliantly illustrated by the incomparable Helen Oxenbury.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this sassy creation myth that tweaks the first chapter of Genesis, Big Momma "roll[s] up her sleeves" and gets down to business ("Wasn't easy, either, with that little baby sitting on her hip"). " `Light,' said Big Momma. And you better believe there was light.' " Here Oxenbury shows mother and child jubilantly emerging from a watery world ("There was water, water everywhere") to greet the light at the surface. At the close of each day, a pleased Big Momma views her handiwork and pronounces a refrain that echoes the King James Bible "That's good. That's real good." On the sixth day, in a sly nod to another take on the world's beginnings, Big Momma "finish[es] things off in one big bang"-fashioning a host of creatures. As a final touch, the matriarch uses "leftover mud" to shape "some folks to keep me company" and charges them with caring for her creation. Root infuses her tale with a joyful spirit, and her lyrical vernacular trips off the tongue. Zaftig Big Momma and her chubby cherub are equally winning, and Oxenbury playfully tracks the creation process with compositions that move through subtle shades of blue and black and then transform with the addition of the golden shades of sunshine, the verdant greens of earth and an explosion of hues as birds, fish and more multiply across the pages. A gentle spin on the Genesis story sure to get youngsters talking. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

PreS-Gr. 2. A raucous, joyous version of the creation story starring a big, bossy woman who knows what she wants and how to get it: "When Big Momma made the world, she didn't mess around." Down in the infinite water, her naked little baby on her hip, she sees what needs to be done: "Light," says Big Momma. "And you'd better believe there was light." She also creates dark on the first day, and for the next five days she's one busy lady. Sky, sun, moon, earth, flora, and fauna--there's so much to do, and after she does it, Big Momma always says approvingly, "That's good. That's real good." On the seventh day she rests, leaving the world to its own devices, though sometimes she looks down and tells her final creation--humans--that they'd "better straighten up." Sometimes, when she and baby look down, they like what they see. Root's text is strong and sassy, with a down-home cadence that has immediate appeal, and Oxenbury's Big Momma is the perfect embodiment of the story's earth mother--no particular race or color, just full of affection and determination. Some of the pictures are wonderful (a double-page spread of animals bursting out of the sun); some, such as the one of modern-day humans looking up at the sky, are more mundane. Yet overall, this is an exciting, new version of one of the world's oldest stories. And the baby is pretty cute, too. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Your momma don't dance... July 19 2004
Format:Hardcover
I've read some pretty fabulous books illustrated by Helen Oxenbury in my day. She's one of those rare artists that pay close attention to fine incomparable details. As for author Phyllis Root, I'd not had the pleasure of reading one her tales until I picked up "Big Momma Makes the World". Now I read reviews and descriptions of this book long before I saw it myself. These reviews would summarize the plot and even lift enjoyable passages from the text. I liked what I read and I liked that the reviewers liked what they read. It was with the greatest shock imaginable that I finally located this book and found, to my amazement, that Big Momma was a big white chick. Hunhuna? Now you might think it a bit prejudiced of me to have leapt to the conclusion that Big Momma, the godlike figure in this tale, was black but that's exactly what I did.

This story is a creation tale in its own right. In it, we follow Big Momma and her little baby as she creates a whole new world. She starts just like you'd expect a godlike figure to start. First there's water, then light, then dark. She makes the sun and the moon, "just in time for the little baby's nap", and then makes the earth itself. Then it's time to make fish and birds and (because the laundry started piling up) the rest of the animals are made with one Big Bang. Still, Big Momma is lonely and she has no one to talk to on her front porch at night. So out of the leftover mud comes a swarm of naked people (done in a tasteful style that is more than a little reminiscent of the late lamented Walt Kelly). In time, she takes her baby up with her into the sky and tells everyone in the world to behave because, "I'll be keeping an eye on you". And from time to time she still does. She and that little baby of hers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars That's good, that's real good.... April 21 2003
Format:Hardcover
This fabulous version of the creation story/myth has my almost three-year-old mezmerized. Big Momma, part goddess, part buddha (as admitted by the illustrator) single-handedly makes the world (although her dishes and laundry do pile up in the process). Her daily accomplishments mirror the Genesis story of creation but with a Root-endowed Southern drawl. If you are able to appreciate the gender change, this is a lovely, refreshing version of creation your child is sure to love. It is well-written and beautifully illustrated.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Time to Accept It--God is a Woman May 13 2003
Format:Hardcover
The author and illustrator of this book do a masterful job of conveying a contemporary feminist spiritual message without becoming preachy or pedantic, thus making the story very appealing to children of all ages. The text rolls off the tongue with a poetic fluidity and the paintings are so engaging that you will find yourself reading this book to your little ones again and again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She's real good, but not very very good! (I'll explain!) April 25 2005
By alexxcz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I stumbled upon this book in the library and was charmed by this feminist revision to the usual Genesis story. It takes the Judeo-Christian creation tale, and both makes God a woman, ands tells the tale in a charming folksy Southern drawl that had me and my kids chuckling away. "That's good, that's real good!" the great Mother says of her handiwork.

I was surprised when I tried to buy the book off of Amazon, and got a completely different story without the fun Southern drawl! (Same pictures, different text!) I realized that Ms. Root must have written a British version of the story where a snappy Goddess proclaims "That's good, that's very very good!" among other Britishisms. This version was called "Big Mama makes the world" and I just want to warn those buying books to make sure they get the version they are hoping for. Neither of the books hints at the existence of the other.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That's good, that's real good.... April 21 2003
By Elizabeth Bennett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This fabulous version of the creation story/myth has my almost three-year-old mezmerized. Big Momma, part goddess, part buddha (as admitted by the illustrator) single-handedly makes the world (although her dishes and laundry do pile up in the process). Her daily accomplishments mirror the Genesis story of creation but with a Root-endowed Southern drawl. If you are able to appreciate the gender change, this is a lovely, refreshing version of creation your child is sure to love. It is well-written and beautifully illustrated.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theological rich, not misleading. Dec 3 2006
By helena - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am disappointed by the reviews that disparage this book. As someone trained in theology and deeply committed to a community of faith, I was encouraged to find a children's book that engaged theological questions, inviting young children to ask really powerful questions. I gave this to my five year old niece, and I have had the most compelling theological discussions with her after nighttime readings. The power of this book (beyond the illustrations) is its invitation. It does not aim at indoctrinating; instead, it demands something of the parent/person reading, something that perhaps the 'negative reviewers' do not want to do--think the big theological questions alongside their children.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Your momma don't dance... July 19 2004
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've read some pretty fabulous books illustrated by Helen Oxenbury in my day. She's one of those rare artists that pay close attention to fine incomparable details. As for author Phyllis Root, I'd not had the pleasure of reading one her tales until I picked up "Big Momma Makes the World". Now I read reviews and descriptions of this book long before I saw it myself. These reviews would summarize the plot and even lift enjoyable passages from the text. I liked what I read and I liked that the reviewers liked what they read. It was with the greatest shock imaginable that I finally located this book and found, to my amazement, that Big Momma was a big white chick. Hunhuna? Now you might think it a bit prejudiced of me to have leapt to the conclusion that Big Momma, the godlike figure in this tale, was black but that's exactly what I did.

This story is a creation tale in its own right. In it, we follow Big Momma and her little baby as she creates a whole new world. She starts just like you'd expect a godlike figure to start. First there's water, then light, then dark. She makes the sun and the moon, "just in time for the little baby's nap", and then makes the earth itself. Then it's time to make fish and birds and (because the laundry started piling up) the rest of the animals are made with one Big Bang. Still, Big Momma is lonely and she has no one to talk to on her front porch at night. So out of the leftover mud comes a swarm of naked people (done in a tasteful style that is more than a little reminiscent of the late lamented Walt Kelly). In time, she takes her baby up with her into the sky and tells everyone in the world to behave because, "I'll be keeping an eye on you". And from time to time she still does. She and that little baby of hers.

Now Phyllis Root notes in her blurb that this story came out of a family car trip where she would tell Big Momma tales to entertain her kids. The story in and of itself has a swell feel to it. A kind of easy going vernacular that reminded me (in a way) of "Swamp Angel" by Anne Isaacs. The fact that the character is white confused me originally but I recovered. I suppose God could be a white woman too. Why not? But though I think Oxenbury threw everything she had into this tale, the pictures didn't spellbind me like her other books did. The baby in the story looked as if it had crawled straight out of her, "We're Going on a Bear Hunt". And though the animals are cute, they're nothing compared to her illustrations for the brilliant, "Farmer Duck" (written by M. Waddell). Though she's tossed every trick she has into its creation (the colors in this story are alone worth the price of admission) I had the nagging feeling that something was missing. I dunno.

I can see people becoming violent over this tale for a variety of different reasons. Some people are going to fall head-over-heels in love with it. They'll rejoice in the illustrations, the excellent text, and the progressive idea of a single mom creating the world (a thought I rather like too). Other people will recoil at the idea of God being reduced (in their eyes) to something so new and different. I personally had my expectations raised a little too high by Oxenbury's other books, so my own view of the story is slightly tainted. Nonetheless, this is an excellent book to read to little ones that need a benevolent creator in their lives. A highly entertaining and interesting lark.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing book April 18 2007
By Angela Daniels - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book for the first time a few weeks ago at a baby shower. It was amazing. I don't have children, so I don't get to experience the gems available to little ones very often but I must say this is probably now my favorite children's book.

I disagree with previous comments about the illustrations needing to be a black woman. Before reading that, I didn't realize that the character was white. I am a black woman of mixed heritage and I saw her and just saw a lighter, heavier version of myself. I felt the race was ambiguous enough based on the size of the body and the language. I think people will see who they want to see when reading this book. Maybe she could have been a little browner perhaps, but I felt she went well with this amazing story.
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