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Big Momma Makes the World (Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (Awards)) Hardcover – November 11, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: AD600L (What's this?)
  • Series: Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1st edition (November 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763611328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763611323
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 0.4 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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.
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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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was the so well received at the Children's Book Shower my book club had for a new grandmother. The lovely illustrations and charming text delighted everyone in our openminded group. It seems to me to be an empowering message for the little one, a girl...but warning, the reason I knew about it was that a nearby conservative school district had recently banned the book in elementary school libraries...The story displeased some parents who were biblical literalists!
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