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Books a mother will love and learn from

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There are several messages in Mother's Day books this year - simplify, quiet down, take it easy and enjoy your family. For the more ambitious, there are also tips for adult daughters and mothers learning to know each other all over again.

And, yes, like every other card-driven holiday, there are gift books timed to come out for moms who prefer literature to candy or flowers.

Though not every portrayal of mothers in literature is a positive one, famous authors through the ages give us snippets showing how much someone cared about a mother.

In the distinct fashion that has made her so popular, Mary Engelbreit brings to life some of those quotations in Words for Mothers to Live By, (Andrews McMeel, $12.95).

"It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us," Charles Dickens wrote in one passage included in this visually pleasing little volume.

Not far into Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry (Warner Books, $16.95) Katrina Kenison is talking about hearing her furnace roar to life with her two young sons snuggled into bed beside her. Her family has learned to give up activities such as watching television in order to spend more time together.

A gentle sweetness pervades here. Her life may not be for everyone, but the appealing way in which she shares her family's story will make one think about sharing a book or a walk with a little one rather than grabbing the remote. Her chapter on silence is compelling.

Also weighing in with things that mothers can share with their children is The Little Big Book for Moms (Welcome, $24.95). Edited by Lena Tabori and Alice Wong (The Big Little Book of Christmas and The Big Little Book of Love), this fat book is full of favorite fairy tales, poetry, rhymes, songs and finger games - everything a first-time mom needs and a longtime mom has forgotten.

There are directions for making bubbles, paper hats and sponge grass along with easy make-together recipes for things full of old-fashioned goodness that children love such as rice pudding, soup and cookies. Perhaps best of all is the lovely early-20th-century art illustrating the whole volume.

More ambitious moms and children can tackle some of the projects in Mothers and Daughters at Home: 35 Projects to Make Together, by Charlotte Lyons (Simon & Schuster, $24). To keep these from intimidating the beginner, the chapters are divided into those that can be done in an hour, a half-day, a day, over the weekend or as long as it takes.

In addition to beautiful photographs, the book lists tools needed and sources, along with a glossary and patterns. The end results are everything from yummy caramel rolls to heirloom quilts.

Pat Ross has created a different quilt of her own in Mother and Daughter Reflections: A Celebration of a Special Bond (Andrews McMeel, $16.95) Following a touching introduction ruminating on several generations of motherhood in her family, she shares a series of black and white images of mothers and daughters. Beside each is a quote. Many of these photos she purchased at antique shows, and Ms. Ross has found a saying to match each perfectly.

More quiltlike wisdom, perhaps even more moving due to the stronger imagery and thought-provoking text, comes with Black Mothers: Songs of Praise & Celebration, by Kristin Clark Taylor (Doubleday, $24.95) "Our African American mothers are the sturdy, stone bridges in our lives; strong and unwavering. Be a bridge to your child and actively help him cross to the other side - wherever that 'other side' may be." With its many descriptions of her roles, from "Giver of Life" to "Keeper of the Flame," this is indeed a song of praise.

In Las Mamis: Famous Latino Authors Remember Their Mothers (Knopf, $20), editors Esmeralda Santiago and Joie Davidow (Las Christmas) bring a diverse collection of memories of Latin American mamas. Just don't expect these to go down as easily as a warm batch of sopaipillas. Some are sad, some tinged in bitterness and some, such as María Amparo Escandón's "My Mother in the Nude," are quite humorous. As one author puts it, "Don't dwell in the past or you will drown in sorrow."

Jane Yolen, one of America's most famous storytellers, has teamed up with her daughter, Heidi E.Y Stemple, to edit Mirror, Mirror (Viking, $24.95). Together they present different versions of fairy tales and discuss them as mother and daughter. The end result is priceless.
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