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Mama, Do You Love Me?

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Mama, do you love me? Yes I do, Dear One. How much?
In this universal story, a child tests the limits of independence and comfortingly learns that a parent's love is unconditional and everlasting. The lyrical text introduces young readers to a distinctively different culture, while at the same time showing that the special love that exists between parent and child transcends all boundaries of time and place. The story is beautifully complemented by graphically stunning illustrations that are filled with such exciting animals as whales, wolves, puffins, and sled dogs. This tender and reassuring book is one that both parents and children will turn to again and again.

• Set in a captivating and unusual Arctic setting
• Includes a carefully researched glossary provides additional information on Arctic life

Fans of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, and Guess How Much I Love You will love this book.

This book is a great read for:
• Toddlers and young children
• Families interested in different cultures
• Parents
• Librarians

24 pages, Board book

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Barbara M. Joosse

60 books40 followers
Barbara Joosse has written many books for children. Among them are Mama, Do You Love Me?, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee; and I Love You the Purplest, illustrated by Mary Whyte. She says, "When I was a little girl, I wished for two things — a best friend, and something so ferocious it would scare away the monsters under my bed. And so I have written Lovabye Dragon. I think maybe it’s for little me." Barbara Josse lives in Wisconsin.

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5 stars
3,635 (49%)
4 stars
2,081 (28%)
3 stars
1,280 (17%)
2 stars
269 (3%)
1 star
86 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 369 reviews
Profile Image for Kim.
343 reviews1 follower
December 14, 2017
I bought this book after first encountering it at the library, where I worked when I was an undergrad student. The narrative is gorgeous and playful; I've read it to children in library storytimes and to my own children.

It is problematic though. The author is not Indigenous. The illustrator is not only not Indigenous but taught at a residential school (she calls it a boarding school, as white settlers complicit in cultural genocide do.)

I am torn. The publisher clearly knew the identities of the two creators was problematic. It was fact-checked by University of Montréal...

Reviews I've read by Indigenous teachers say they read the book with their students and point out the problems in the illustrations (multiple Indigenous cultures are represented in one character and imagery is inconsistently applied.)

As a settler myself, I have strong misgivings about this book. I feel angry at the publishers who tried to market it as an Indigenous book when published; I am angry at myself for believing them (until the internet emerged and I did an MLIS and could research things...) I no longer believe the publisher's early implied claims, needless to say.

I try to replicate the suggestions made by teachers in Alaska who are of different cultures; I point out the problems in the illustrations and talk about the problem of white people telling Indigenous stories. I only read this book with my children now, with whom I can have long and repeated conversations about the problems. I attempt to counter with books actually written by Indigenous children's author's.
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,839 reviews393 followers
July 16, 2015
This is one of my favorite parent/child stories for children ever. It speaks of a child testing the limits of childhood, making mistakes, not listening, etc. and the parent explaining/verbalizing that although they are disappointed some times or angry that it doesn't mean they no longer love the child. Other big pluses were the Inuit viewpoint and a female protagonist.
Profile Image for معصومه توکلی.
Author 2 books235 followers
January 13, 2016
«عزیز»، دقیق‌ترین واژه است برای وصف این کتاب... این کتاب و آن کس که به من هدیه‌اش کرده. برای او البتّه «عزیز» شاید کم باشد. «جان» بهتر است. و منظور را روشن‌تر می‌رساند. خداوند خانم جوس را و قلب پر از عاطفه‌اش را غریق رحمت خود گرداند و همه‌ی مادرها را بیامرزد و سایه‌ی سبزشان را بر سر کودکانشان مستدام بدارد و من را هم مادر خوبی بکند
و آمین
و همین
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,250 reviews
June 29, 2009
The theme alone—that a mother's love knows no bounds—is told beautifully. Moreover, the illustrations and setting provide a stunning glimpse into the traditional Inuit culture of peoples in Northern Alaska. Either of these merits would warrant checking out the book--combined, it makes this a can't- miss, in my opinion.

*I read the regular Hardcover edition
Profile Image for Pam.
1,223 reviews
June 8, 2014
If I could give this book 10 stars, I would! It is about how a mother will love her child NO MATTER WHAT. A feeling I had (and still do have!) from my mother as a child, and a feeling I try to instill in my daughters now. The illustrations in this book are very good, and I love the word mukluks - ever since I learned it waaaay back in the day, on Sesame Street. Great Book!
Profile Image for Bridgette Redman.
154 reviews32 followers
February 2, 2012
My son is getting to that age where he asks for books by name. He’s graduated from the vague, “Book” and “’Nother book” to “Mitten book” (the one by Jan Brett), “D book” (in the Moncure alphabet series) and “Foot Book” (by Dr. Seuss) among others.

Last night, he asked for the “Mama book.” Within seconds, all the exhaustion from my overlong work day disappeared. My son plopped himself into my lap and handed me Mama, Do You Love Me? Our reading time is usually a joint affair. I’ll start reading and then pause at words he’s familiar with so he can say them. But this book is different. This book is a peaceful poem to be read without interruption to the melody and both of us are lulled by it. That and the vocabulary is very different from words with which he’s familiar.

The story

The book opens with a large Inuit woman swinging her daughter by her arms. The daughter asks, “Mama, do you love me?” After assuring her daughter that she does, the daughter then asks how much and how long. The answers are beautiful in their imagery:

I love you more than the raven loves his treasure, more than the dog loves his tail, more than the whale loves his spout.

And in response to how long:

I’ll love you until the umiak flies into the darkness, until the stars turn to fish in the sky, until the puffin howls at the moon.

The daughter then imagines ways to test the mother’s love. She asks “what if.” What if she broke their eggs, what if she put lemmings in her mom’s mukluks (my son’s favorite word in the whole book), what if she ran away or turned into a mean and nasty polar bear?

The mother acknowledges how she would feel and then adds but still I would love you.. The emotions the daughter takes her through almost seem to foreshadow the emotions one experiences with a child growing up: sorry, angry, very angry, worried, very sad, surprised, surprised and a little scared, and finally very surprised and very scared. Yet, through it all, parents can identify with the mother who underneath all of the changes her child goes through, still sees the child underneath and can say:

I will love you forever and for always, because you are my Dear One.

The vocabulary

The words in this book are not easy ones that a young child will pick up early. It’s a book meant for parents and children to read together. It’s a book that sparks all the warm and cuddly feelings that Norman Rockwell inspires, only instead of middle America, the images are those of northern Alaska and the culture is Inuit.

I am not one of those who believe children’s books should have their vocabulary restricted to what the children already know. The only way I have ever effectively expanded my own vocabulary was through reading. The keys are contexts and relationships. A child should be able to figure out what the words mean without necessarily having to go get a dictionary and break the flow of the story.

Author Barbara Joosse works well with her illustrator Barbara Lavallee to ensure that the context and relationships are provided. The beautiful illustrations help the reader understand the words and even add elements of the Inuit culture that are not in the words of the story. Then, just to make sure no one is left confused, the final spread of the book explains some of the words and provides a context for them. The glossary puts a geography to the Inuits and explains such things as a umiak is a boat made of whalebone and that ptarmigan eggs are rare and sought-after delicacies.

Its appeal

I often wonder what is going on in the mind of my two-year-old. Does he label this book the “mama book” because of the title or does he perhaps associate it with his mama? It’s most likely the former. After all Six Sticks is “mouse book” and Happy Birthday, Thomas is “train book.” But there is something about his voice and that special smile he makes when he says “mama book” that makes me wonder if just maybe, it might be the latter.

After all, his mama does bear some similarities to the mama in the book. She’s a large woman who often wears her dark, waist-length hair braided and she has an unconditional love for her Dear One.
Profile Image for Nita Enyeart.
1 review1 follower
December 9, 2018

I absolutely love reading this book to my girls. Learning about other people is so important to us as a family.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,291 reviews49 followers
October 6, 2018

We didn't actually make it through this book, but I was curious, so I went back and read it through later.

It seems that both the author and illustrator are white.

The dedication page includes, "The editor, author, and illustrator would also like to thank C.E.W. Graham of the McCord Museum of Canadian History in Montreal for his patient and gracious assistance in checking this manuscript for accuracy in its portrayal of the Inuit culture." But I'm not sure if Graham is Inuit or is just a white "expert."

One reviewer said:
The illustrator is not only not Indigenous but taught at a residential school (she calls it a boarding school, as white settlers complicit in cultural genocide do.)

I am torn. The publisher clearly knew the identities of the two creators was problematic. It was fact-checked by University of Montréal...

Reviews I've read by Indigenous teachers say they read the book with their students and point out the problems in the illustrations (multiple Indigenous cultures are represented in one character and imagery is inconsistently applied.)
In fact-checking this, I found that Lavallee's website says, "I have lived in Alaska since 1970, when I moved here to teach art at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka. Mt. Edgecumbe was a boarding school that served students from all over the state at a time when there were no village high schools. It exposed me to the various native cultures in Alaska. My experience there enabled me to see village live through the eyes of my students; the result is my idealized, stylized imagery that celebrates the joy, resilience, and the hard work that characterizes their lives."

Edgecumbe isn't on Wiki's List of Indian residential schools in Canada, but the Wiki for Mount Edgecumbe High School says, "It was originally administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and, along with Native Alaskan boarding schools in others parts of the state, helped educate today's leaders from rural areas." I also found a 2012 article about a Native alum of the school -- who says the school was "focused on preparing students for the future, and was not about suppressing Native culture."


The story itself is the standard "I'll love you no matter what." I appreciate that the mother acknowledges "I would be scared" or "I would be angry," reminding children that their actions do have consequences, even if their parents will still love them no matter what.

The board book doesn't have a glossary, but the regular version does -- which is helpful both for things like learning that "umiak" refers to the boat in the photo and also for better understanding the import of some of the kid's questions:
* "Mama, what if I carried our eggs--our ptarmigan eggs!--and I tried to be careful, and I tried to walk slowly, but I fell and the eggs broke?" -- "[Ptarmigans] lay one egg every seven days and these eggs are a treasured food of the Inuit."
* "What if I threw water at our lamp?" -- "The lamp in an Inuit home was never left unattended because it was such a vital part of daily survival."

Another reviewer notes:
I'm not sure what to think about the fact that this is a book about two Inuit people written by non-native people. The glossary of arctic animals, people, and customs in the back (and the rest of the book) seem respectful, but it does have a bit of that focus on native culture as "traditional" and in the past thing going on.
and indeed the opening of the glossary says, "The Inuit in this story live in the northern part of Alaska, where they have lived for more than 9,000 years. In fact, there are even few roads. This book shows the way Inuit lived many years ago. Now most Inuit live in a way that combines the old and the new." (To its credit, the glossary does flag modern life in its blurbs -- e.g., "Traditionally, the Inuit depended on dog sleds to travel. Now, many Inuit use snowmobiles as well." and "The Alaska Inuit, however, generally only use snow igloos as temporary hunting shelters. They build winter dugouts of whale bone, driftwood, and sod. In the summer, they live in tents. Many Inuit now live in modern houses.")

The glossary includes "Masks Inuit believed that the medicine man could talk to spirits. To do that, he would wear a different mask for different ceremonies. Inuit artists still make masks today, but they are usually for decoration, not for ceremonial use." which seemed odd to me, since I didn't think the word "mask" showed up at all in the text, and surely child-readers understand the concept -- but I went back, and in the various sequences where the child asks, "What if I turned into [an animal]?" the child is first shown holding a mask and then shown transformed into the animal. (The back jacket flap says, "The masks in this book are modeled after the ceremonial masks traditionally used by the Inuit." and explains some about the mask designs.)
Profile Image for Tefek.
132 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2022
عشق بى قيد و شرط مادر به بچه ش رو نشون ميده...تصويرسازيش خيلى قشنگ بود:)
25 reviews
November 5, 2011
"Mama, Do you Love Me?" is a picture book that was published in 1998. This personally is one of my favorite books all time and geared towards the N-P age group of children. This story is about a child asking their mother several times about how much does the mother love the child. The mother goes through and explains in many ways how much she loves the child and compares them to other passionate things.

I gave this book a 5 star rating. The illustrations in this book is very well done, and there isnt hardly any bright colors. Most of the colors are dull and its a nice change compared to most picture books that have lots of bright and neon colors. The plot of the story is wonderful and any child should have this book on the shelf because its a book that can be a connection between the child and the mother. I would definatly have this book in my classroom when I become a teacher. This is a great book that I believe that every child should read once in their life time and I guarentee that they will not want you put it down!
April 23, 2013
A young girl seeks reassurance that her Mama will love her no matter what she does. Mama provides this reassurance and also shares the emotions she would feel if her daughter demonstrated the acts in her questions.

The illustrations exhibit great examples of body language and tone; the cultural tie-ins are charming and reminds us that love is universal. Great book!
Profile Image for Sylvester (Taking a break in 2023).
2,041 reviews74 followers
September 15, 2014
3* art
3* story

Not sure if at 2 1/2 Squirt "gets" the story, and I do hope he doesn't run away to live with the wolves now (although he does resemble Mowgli, and I've often compared our parenting style as similar to being raised by wolves, so it might feel quite homey out there in the cave). He's picked out this book several times for me to read to him, so I take that as a sign in it's favour.
Profile Image for Emily.
481 reviews3 followers
May 24, 2018
My mom used to read me this book when I was little. The artwork is very memorable. Very cute!
Profile Image for mirnatius.
748 reviews37 followers
February 14, 2020
Rep: Alaskan Inuit characters

I read this because it’s Valentine’s Day and wanted to read something about love, maternal love in this case. The illustrations were good, and it was sweet. I recall reading it when I was younger.
Profile Image for Kaitlyn (ktxx22) Walker.
1,174 reviews16 followers
May 1, 2020
I know this one is a classic and beloved children’s book but although I enjoyed this I found some of the words very difficult to pronounce and will need to look them up for future readings. I will say that I did enjoy the glossary in the back with descriptions of all the indigenous vocabulary!
Profile Image for L.A..
265 reviews
December 6, 2021
Super helpful message for my 3-year-old! I did feel the dialogue between characters could have been positioned and/or punctuated more clearly. It would have enhanced the book’s message. Message was also dampened by some unfamiliar words, but those can be learned—good to expose even young children to other cultures.
Profile Image for Sherry Scheline.
1,283 reviews5 followers
January 5, 2022
Great book. Wonderful story. I love that it has a wonderful glossary in the back.
35 reviews
April 7, 2021
5 stars for the words, 1 star for cultural appropriation.
Profile Image for Andrea.
981 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2021
I was browsing for books in my library's bookstore and the Native American cover immediately caught my attention. Native American culture is fascinating to me. I flipped through it and it looked like a really sweet book with a good lesson for a young kid. The artwork is really cool.

I liked that the illustrator dedicated the book to the children of Alaska. I really enjoyed that the author used comparisons found in nature to show her daughter how much she loved her. The raven and his treasure, the dog his tail, the whale his spout.

I liked the image of the mom and the girl in the canoe on the sea in their furry jackets, with the girl and her little doll dressed the same. The page with them canoeing into the sky with the big full moon is enchanting.

There were references to animals and things I didn't know, not being from that area, but thankfully there were pictures to help me out. Umiak is a fish. Ermine is like a white ferret. Lemmings look like some kind of little rodent. Mukluks are boots.

I liked that it showed their culture and lifestyle. The mom was shown weaving a basket. The girl mentioned their lamp and it showed a bowl on the floor with something in it and a small flame burning. I wondered what that was about.

Sometimes it was hard to tell who was speaking. One page said "What if I ran away?" Right below it read "Then I will be worried." Nothing to indicate it was the mom speaking. There should have been more space in between the lines or a different font used for the mom so readers could differentiate between the two.

A page showed the mom with the girl bundled up on a sled. The dogs were so cute in their harnesses, hooked up to the sled. The northern lights were so cool, and the page with the girl hugging 3 wolves and howling with them in an ice cave.

I felt like the test petered out as it came to the girl asking what if she turned into a musk-ox or a walrus. She should have stuck with things that were actually possible. It was cool though how for each animal she held a hoop with certain decorations and the animals head was in the middle, I used the tool for her turning into the animals.

The polar bear is where it really fell apart. "What if I turned into a polar bear, and I was the meanest bear you ever saw and I had sharp, shiny teeth, and I chased you into your tent and you cried?"

It ended with "I will love you, forever and for always, because you are my Dear One." I wouldn't have put the last line of the book on the back cover, because it spoiled it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
173 reviews
April 27, 2015
I found myself smiling as I read this book because of the many questions that the child is asking the mother. It reminded me of children at a certain age because they are always, always asking questions about everything, and they are also always making stuff up, just like the child in the story was doing. I liked the fact that the story was also about Eskimos because it made it feel warm and went with the story about love well. The author also used many words that are native in the Eskimo language, so I found myself wondering what they meant. However, at the back, he defined them, so I think it would be good to read to children if you were trying to introduce them to a different culture.
Profile Image for Melissa Ailey.
5 reviews
October 16, 2017
This is a great multicultural book for young readers in elementary school. Some of the culturally specific words may be confusing for young readers, so this is a good book for a parent to read to their child or a teacher to read to the class. It could work great when learning about different cultures and what they are like. The pictures are colorful and detailed and stay true to what the book is talking about on that page. I like that it is a board book so it is sturdy and easy to hold for younger kids.
142 reviews
October 14, 2020
This book is really well written and the pictures are beautiful. After reading up on it, I was disappointed to find that there are a lot of problems with the book. The illustrations, although beautiful, do not accurately portray the culture. Also, the native words that are used in the book are misspelled. It really bothers me when cultures are misappropriated. When people think it's ok to write about a culture as if it is their own, it does a disservice to everyone. So, I cannot recommend this book.
Profile Image for Amanda L.
134 reviews40 followers
December 8, 2014
I very much appreciate it as a means to some valuable education about the Inuit, and this definitely takes it out of the realm of ordinary children's books, but there just isn't any storyline. I find it hard to understand why there is no hurdle labeled DO I ACTUALLY HAVE A STORY HERE? for children's books to publish.

Though it does boast unique and beautiful illustrations and packs a lot of sweet sentiment. Still, "just ok" (as the two-star rating goes).
Profile Image for jacky.
3,494 reviews83 followers
February 15, 2010
I liked how this book introduced parts of the Inuit culture. It was a cute "I love you" book that not only discussed how much the parent loved the child, but on what terms. I liked how the mother explain that she could be mad or sad, but still love the child just as much. Cool illustrations.
Profile Image for Cassandra.
1,384 reviews23 followers
July 15, 2016
Nice introduction to a new culture. Hard to read for my ELL daughter, though. She did enjoy the theme of "mama, do you love me?" As she's been home less than a year, she still seeks reassurance that she is truly loved.
Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
881 reviews2,262 followers
November 17, 2017
My mom used to read this book to me a lot as a kid. she wanted me to learn about other cultures (in this case the Inuit people) and know that she'd love me no matter what I did in life. As I've gotten older I appreciate and am glad that she read it to me so many times.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 369 reviews

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