“Mama Loved to Worry” by Maryann Weidt, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis, Minnesota Historical Society Press, $16.95, 32 pages
Your Mama is really tall.
She can reach the cabinets where the cookies are stored. She can touch the upper shelf of your closet and the tippy-top of your bedroom door. Her arms can reach things that you never could. Your Mom is probably at least 5 feet tall — that’s huge, isn’t it? — and in “Mama Loved to Worry” by Maryann Weidt, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis, this story is even taller!
Mama was a first-class, top-rate worrier. She was so good at it, she won awards — and when you think about it, she had reason to worry. She had the whole farm to take care of — the cows, the pigs, the chickens — and Baby Eli, who seemed to be into everything, every minute of the day.
One afternoon, while she was in the garden, Mama worried about a tornado. A twister like that, well, it could carry the farm off! She worried and worried, and when Mama worries, she knits. That day, she knitted enough woolies for the pigs, chickens, and cows to wear, and when a tornado actually did “tumble tail over teakettle” toward the farm, she grabbed Baby Eli and ran. That Eli, he was always into everything.
Another day soon afterward, Mama started to worry about how truly hot it was. What if Crooked Neck Creek dried up? What would happen then? She worried and worried — and when Mama worries, she sews “faster than a hound dog after a squirrel.” On that day, she sewed clothes for all the aunts, uncles, and cousins, and she worked up a sweat. There was no more need to worry about the creek – but where was Baby Eli?
It was even hotter the next day, and Mama started to worry about all that heat. It could’ve popped the corn in the fields! She worried and worried — and when Mama worries, she makes sauerkraut, strudel, and snicker doodle twists. When the corn started popping in the field and the sugar cane melted, it smelled so good. But where was Baby Eli now?
Just as suddenly, where was Mama? Was it time to worry about her, too?
Paul Bunyan. Slue-Foot Sue. Pecos Bill. You remember them fondly as characters in those wildly fun Tall Tales you heard in grade school … and now Mama joins them in “Mama Loved to Worry.”
There isn’t a kid in the world who doesn’t love exaggeration in a story, and Weidt gives it with this rib-tickler that gets taller and taller as the tale goes on. The language in this book will really make you grin, but what’s even better are the illustrations by Balsaitis. She gives this book a home-spun feel of a gentler time when laundry hung outside to dry, the waterin’ hole was a right-fine place to swim, and summer never ended.
This book is a knee-slappin’, leg-pullin’ passel of fun for 5-to-8-year-olds, or anybody who knows how to spin a tale a mile high. And if that’s either of you, then “Mama Loved to Worry” could be huge.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer, who has been reading since she was 3 years old. She lives on a hill in La Crosse with two dogs and 13,000 books.