Friday, February 15, 2013

ME and MOMMA and BIG JOHN by Mara Rockliff – Perfect Picture Book Friday

One of my first posts was about the Eastern Pennsylvania SCBWI Fall Fest conference I attended last November. We had a choice of workshops to attend. One of the sessions I chose was led by author Mara Rockliff. Mara came across as a hard-working, practical writer, humble about her achievements and generous with her time and advice to those of us in attendance. This is one reason I was especially excited when Mara’s book, Me and MOMMA and BIG JOHN was chosen as a Charlotte Zolotow award honor book for 2012.

Title: ME and MOMMA and BIG JOHN

Author: Mara Rockliff

Illustrator: William Low

            Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2012

            Audience: 3-7 years of age (but older children may
           enjoy the history)

           Themes: Pride, Dignity, Patience, Art

          Opening:  “Momma’s first day on the job, she comes
          home late, trudging up the stairs as if they laid that
          heavy stone right on her shoulders. She is gray as
          ashes, from her headscarf to her boots.”

Synopsis: Told from her young son’s point of view, ME and MOMMA and BIG JOHN tells the story of one woman stonecutter working to build the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. The boy is at first underwhelmed to learn that what his mother has spent months working to complete is just one stone. One stone that will be lifted high on to the cathedral, becoming indistinguishable among the other stones. His visit inside the work-in-progress helps him realize how each individual contribution, even if not acknowledged individually, can be an integral part of a lasting work of art. The book was inspired by a real-life mother working on the project.

Activities/Resources: Use cooperation to build something where the final effort is greater than the sum of its parts. This can be a story where everyone takes a turn, adding their own part, or an actual physical structure. Talk about things people like to do-do they do them all for recognition, or for another reason?

Hope you enjoy this book! Now back to my own labor of love--writing!

Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


  1. I may need to read this one about patience! We'll check this out.

    1. The cathedral still isn't done...stone cutting sounds harder than writing!

  2. How fascinating, Wendy! It is important to know that each of our small contributions can lead to one big result. I love the theme of this book. Thanks for bringing it our way!

  3. Me too - putting it on hold now! Wait, that didn't sound patient, did it!

  4. Amazing patience, wow. I like how empowering it is for women :0)

  5. wow.....I never thought of the tedious labor for one person to create one stone. This makes me appreciate the architectural accomplishments even more. I will look for this book. And how exciting for you to be in one of her workshops. Thanks, Wendy

  6. This certainly is a fascinating book about power. I love books based on true stories. Putting this one on hold too!

  7. What a strong story!I guess both the boy and his mom have to be very patient. Patience is something I have to work on always. Sometimes it's easy, like when a little kid is taking me for a walk. Sometimes it's very hard. Like when that little kid is holding a piece of pizza. I know I will get my reward in the end. But it sure makes that nice walk a long one.

  8. This book sounds really interesting, Wendy! I love books that are based on real things. And I love books that show women in non-traditional jobs. Thanks for adding this one to our list. I'd really like to read it! :)

  9. This book sounds fascinating -- I'm amazed that each stone takes so much work. Great way to talk about working together! Thanks for introducing us to this book!

  10. After leaving the cathedral, Carol went on to further her education. First, a school teacher working with children with special needs and then on to being a program director childrens division at a family shelter in the Bronx. Now retired, Carol still spends her time being creative in the art of being now a grand mother of 8...O'ma is what they call her and she still talk about "her stones"..And at 39, I still call her momma :-)
    Thank you Mara Rockliff.