Just Like a Mama

by Alice Faye Duncan (Author) Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Celebrate the heart connection between adopted children and the forever families who welcome them with kindness, care, and unconditional love in this powerful picture book from the author of Honey Baby Sugar Child.

Carol Olivia Clementine lives with Mama Rose. Mama Rose is everything--tender and sweet. She is also as stern and demanding as any good parent should be. In the midst of their happy home, Carol misses her mother and father. She longs to be with them. But until that time comes around, she learns to surrender to the love that is present. Mama Rose becomes her "home." And Carol Olivia Clementine concludes that she loves Miss Rose, "just like a mama."

This sweet read-aloud is, on the surface, all about the everyday home life a caregiver creates for a young child: she teachers Clementine how to ride a bike, clean her room, tell time. A deeper look reveals the patience, intention, and care little ones receives in the arms of a mother whose blood is not her blood, but whose bond is so deep--and so unconditional--that it creates the most perfect condition for a child to feel safe, successful, and deeply loved.

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Publishers Weekly

In this much-needed picture book about nontraditional families, Carol Olivia Clementine, a light-skinned black child, lives with Mama Rose, a darker-skinned black woman, "miles away" from Carol Olivia's parents. Though Carol Olivia misses her parents (why the family resides apart is never revealed), she is glad to live with Mama Rose, who takes care of her in all the ways a mama does: teaching life skills (making the bed, telling time), ensuring that she's well nourished ("there will be NO chocolate cake until I eat my veggies"), and otherwise providing for the girl's health and happiness ("Just like a mama, she combs my hair"). Brightly colored, expressive mixed-media illustrations capture the duo's vivacity and the strength of their love as the woman chases the child on a yellow bicycle. Ultimately, Carol Olivia concludes, Mama Rose is "just like a mama to me"; in fact, "Mama Rose is my home." A poignant author's note reveals Duncan's personal connection to the narrative and praises "fictive kin, adoptive parents, and guardians who have chosen to love and care for a child when they have no obligation to do so." Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"A beautiful story of love and kinship, so needed for the many children living apart from their nuclear families." - Kirkus Reviews
Alice Faye Duncan
Alice Faye Duncan is the author of multiple children's books, including Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received a 2019 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and five starred reviews. Her most recent books include Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free, Evicted!, and Yellow Dog Blues, illustrated by Chris Raschka.

Keith Mallett is a painter, etcher, and ceramic artist, who has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award. In 2017, he created the Google doodle celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. He has multiple picture books, including Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge, and Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 14, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV013060 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Parents
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV014000 - Juvenile Fiction | Girls & Women
JUV013010 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Adoption
JUV013090 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Alternative Family
Library of Congress categories
Parent and child
Mothers and daughters
Foster children
Foster parents

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