We hope you enjoy these books full of women modeling healthy motherhood and standing as mentors for those desperate for one.
“I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”
—Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom
All of the following titles can also be found on our Free Literary Database and a lovely printable at the bottom of this list.
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Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr- I love this book because I too have two kids with a death wish and I love the patience and understanding both parents show in all the misadventures.
All-of-A-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor- As a child I was struck by the brilliance of the mother to inspire better results in cleaning from her girls without corporal punishment. I tucked it away for twenty years and then whipped out the dusting dimes!
Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery- Oh, Marilla. As a girl I thought Marilla was hard and a real bummer. As a mom I love Marilla’s personal growth story arc and think it could be especially encouraging to women who may not have necessarily wanted motherhood, yet here they are, making the most of their life and trying to love their kids the best they can. I also am raising an Anne and feel so much more solidarity with Marilla living with someone with her head in the clouds!
Anne, herself, is an incredible mother as you venture further into the series.
Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli- I was contemplating Bright April for this list and was convinced when my 13 year old started to advocate for it: “I thought she was a good mom. She makes dresses and quotes the Bible!” Poor girl. This mama only offers one of those two offerings!
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White- Have you ever found yourself concerned about your child’s mental health to the point of seeking medical opinion only to be encouraged to open your own mind? I love Fern’s mom and her care for Fern and willingness to accept wise counsel and chill out.
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B Gilbreth Jr & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey- Lillian Gilbreth was my hero as a kid. Not only did she manage twelve kids with grace, but she worked alongside her husband as an equal, had an amazing sense of humor, and felt zero shame in living her life the way she and her husband chose to as eccentric as it may have been.
Different: The Story of an Outside-The-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally & Nathan Clarkson- In Different we get to hear from both Sally and her son Nathan on the challenges and joys they experienced over the years with Nathan’s anxiety, learning difficulties, OCD and other challenging needs. I found hearing both sides to be particularly valuable.
An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo- Who brings an elephant home to live? This mama did and it ended up saving their lives. A powerful based on true events story set in Germany during WW2 shows a mother’s resilience, courage, and the ability to make strategic choices under pressure.
Fairchild Family Stories Series by Rebecca Caudill- Another free range mother with compassionate understanding of the need for independence of the youngest and the capabilities of the older children.
Give and Take by Elly Swartz- This is such a beautiful example of advocating for a child struggling with their mental health and entering family and individual therapy. So much awareness and compassion.
Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward with Christine Hunter- This is a beautiful true story of mothering orphans, trusting God in impossible situations, and being encouraged and ministered to by the faith of your children.
The Good Master by Kate Seredy- Every time the FB group gets a request for books with good moms, this title gets recommended. I haven’t read it again since becoming a mother, but I look forward to it!
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott - I loved that this book depicts a mother figure showing great intentionality in the development of her young boys’ and young mens’ personhood and character.
Mary Emma and Company by Ralph Moody- Mary Emma is an incredible example of frontier strength and faith in the face of crushing tragedy and loss.
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes- A delightful vintage family series with a single mother. A joyful family read aloud.
Mother Carey’s Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin- In the book that the Disney movie Summer Magic is based on, we find a mother of many making a good life in impoverished surroundings.
Once Upon a Saturday by Edward Fenton- It is my goal in life for this unicorn to come back into print. This mother shows an incredibly strong backbone in a town of small minded bigots. I love watching her children observe how differently she saw things from the neighbors and pushed back with dignity and humor. As they grew in the warmth of her light, I hope my children grow in mine. If you stumble across a copy- buy it!
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus- This book shows a mother in the making as we see a woman behaving as a mother should towards a group of orphaned siblings. Her reaction towards finding out that one of the children has been slapped by a foster parent had me cheering and grateful that these are the types of adults that surround my kids.
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit- A mother and her brood uprooted when the father is separated due to a false accusation. As more and more families I know are tragically facing similar situations, the vindication this sweet family receives can offer encouragement and hope in the storm.
Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary- Oh, sweet neurodivergency! Ramona is so much of the “extra” that so many moms today are faced with: extra energy, extra inquisitiveness, extra calamity, extra joy. Ramona’s mom handling Ramona with love and grace really struck me as a kid and has inspired me as a parent as I take my millionth deep breath of the day.
Sarah, Plain and Tall series by Patricia MacLachlan- Sarah is another found mother. She loves and softens and nurtures and possesses all the warmth I have come to expect from a Patricia MacLachlan story.
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp- This is one of the most re-read books of my teen years. Maria was such an incredible woman! She stepped into a marriage she didn’t want out of trust in her spiritual leaders (basically an arranged marriage) and became the heart and soul of an ever enlarging family. This book tells of her arrival as a nanny, marriage, motherhood, flight from the Nazis, journey to America, learning a new language- all while managing a huge household in a foreign land, starting and running a camp, singing, and so much more! The world needs more Marias.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome- If you are a helicopter parent by nature looking for a mentor in free range parenting this book is for you!
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss- I love the love and resourcefulness of Mama Robinson. Her ability to face a shipwreck with such courage and to immediately set about to create a home for her family despite circumstances is everything.
The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman- This is not an easy book but it’s such a good one! Set in and post-Civil War we get to watch a young woman marry and face much adversity over the following decades with a firmness of conviction I find inspiring. There aren’t many vintage books that include mothering a severely special needs child with so much tenderness and grace. I also love the contrasting of visible physical wounds post war and the invisible ones on a man’s soul that are as damaging, if not more so, and the patience their spouses have to have while their partner is still here but not or, at least, not who they once were when you made the vows to love and cherish in sickness and in health. Whew. Liddy is a rock.
Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë - In this book Helen, a mother married to an abusive husband, escapes with her young son. Helen shows that a mother can conquer seemingly insurmountable difficulties when the welfare of her child is at stake.
Three Knocks on the Wall by Evelyn Sibley Lampman- Marty’s mom was a mom to me too. I loved how she stood up to racism, even in her own family, and how she navigated challenging family members and neighbors in this WWI era story. I hung on every word as she read aloud to Marty and walked her through sensitive topics (ie children born outside of wedlock- like me) with so much love and grace in a time full of judgement and spiritual abuse. This book being brought back into print is a dream come true and I’m so grateful to Jill at Purple House Press for taking a chance on it!.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith- Here we find an Irish immigrant mother doing her best to raise her children and protect them from a full knowledge of the abusiveness of their alcoholic father.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield- This beautiful story (that every child should have read to them) is such a wonderful compare and contrast of differing parenting styles and how they can cause a child to be stunted or to bloom. My three sisters haven’t read this book in almost thirty years, yet we all reference it regularly. It is quite impactful.
White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan- This quick read is so full of heart. I loved the mom’s understanding of the power of human and animal relationships and their ability to heal trauma. So much of the emotional intelligence shown by the girls in this story is clearly them living out what they learned at her knee.
Wolf Hollow and the sequel My Own Lightning by Lauren Wolk-
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8 NKJV
Sarah McBride resonates Micah 6:8. Her unconditional love, pure goodness and humble servanthood demands respect and she courageously uses this respect to support those in her live. Her calming and loving presence along with humors brings a balance to the hard and difficult times of the WWII era.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle- As a child growing up in an environment where women with doctorates were expected to stop working and keep house when they got married this book was a world opener allowing me to see a highly intelligent and educated woman working alongside her husband, as an equal, while still being a good mother.
Motherly Models and Mentors- An RA Picture Book List
All in One Piece by Jill Murphy- An all too accurate humorous look at getting ready to leave the house without the kids.
Andy and Mr Cunningham by Jane Thayer- A mother wisely navigates a young child completely immersed in a pretend alter ego.
Being Edie is Hard Today by Ben Brashares and Elizabeth Bergeland- A relatable look at mothering a highly sensitive child. (sensory processing disorder, autism, anxiety, social anxiety, etc)
Building Our House by Jonathan Bean- A hands on mother helping to build the family home.
Finding Papa by Angela Pham Krans- A beautiful based on a true story picture book highlighting a mother full of patience, courage, and strength.
Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy- For every mother who struggles to find a moment of peace in a home with children. It’s so good to be able to laugh and feel seen!
Here Come the Bears! by Alice Goudey- I loved this four season look at mothering little bear cubs.
Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler- A great depression era widow takes to the woods to survive and ends up building a life with her brood.
Little Critter Series by Mercer Mayer- I love the expressions, patience, understanding, and good humor of the mom in Little Critter books. She always felt like a great model of not taking the little things too seriously and that most of it is, in fact, little things.
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown- A classic reassurance that a mother would move heaven and earth to stay by her child’s side loving them.
Don’t miss our lovely printable beautiful visual list below! Share it with a friend or your favorite librarian!
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Love this list! I’ll be adding the ones I haven’t read to my own list. I really loved Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins.