KidLitCripCrit – Mama Zooms

Mama Zooms is that rare thing – a book that becomes part of your everyday. Viola calls it the ‘wheee!’ book & since the day it arrived she’s been over the moon about it.

It’s a beautifully simple, joyful book. A child sits on their mother’s knee: 

‘Mama’s got a zooming machine… and she zooms me everywhere.’ 

– every page is a different mini adventure. A celebration of a mother-child relationship, through the intimacy of riding on her lap.

This is one of the loveliest aspects for me of being a wheelchair using parent, and Mama Zooms nailed it. And did so almost 30 years ago – it was published in 1993, the oldest on our list by a mile.

It’s such an obvious idea. Wheeled vehicles fascinate children, so of course they’re everywhere. With one notable exception.

Wheelchairs are still feared, still stigmatised. Still associated with laziness & ‘giving up’ (whatever that actually means). And when children are shown wheelchair users, they tend to be children or older people.

So this extremely wholesome book feels a bit radical too, in the way it revels in & celebrates the wheelchair.

Illustration shows Mama in her chair wearing an off-white blouse, the child is dressed as a jockey.
"Mama zooms me across the lawn and she's my racehorse."
Our text reads: Mama also has a very fetching hat and stylish yet practical gloves. Mama is pretty much my style icon

Mama Zooms isn’t own voices. But unlike so many others, it shows total respect for the disabled character.

The wheelchair isn’t used as a punchline – no big reveal, no ‘ta daa! She’s in a wheelchair!’ We can’t fully see the chair in the first spreads, but it isn’t dodged.

I’m not a ‘fit’ wheelchair user like the character in this book. I can’t take my kids out alone, whizz them down ramps, to the beach etc. The mother in this book is the most socially acceptable wheelchair user – strong, white, normatively attractive, a manual chair etc.

It’s not all me. But I still feel represented by it. And so do both our daughters.

The word ‘wheee’ appears nowhere, but at 1yo it’s what Viola sees – the movement, the excitement. She sees herself & me in it & our far more modest trips to the garden. She points to the child & says ‘Vava’. And now says ‘wheee!’ as she settles onto my lap.

The last page is pretty special:

‘Mama zooms me right up until bedtime. Then Mama is just my mama, and that’s how I like her best.’

The illustration shows a young child asleep on her mother, it's a close-up. "Mama zooms me right up until bedtime. Then Mama is just my mana, and that's how I like her best."
Our text reads: a very good ending indeed.

Lucy Catchpole

(First posted on Instagram on the 23rd of August 2020.)

Mama Zooms is available with free international delivery at our local bookshop, Blackwell’s (affiliate link). It’s quite ridiculously cheap right now – £2.77 including postage – but I don’t know how long that’ll last.

Frustratingly Bookshop do not stock it, but here’s the rest of our list on Bookshop UK and Bookshop US.

And you can find our first KidLitCripCrit post – with our full list on this blog – here.

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