HomeJean Marzollo, author of I SPY

Mama Mama



Gold Award Seal

*Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award

Papa Papa


Why I Wrote This BookWhy I Wrote This BookBelieve it or not, it took me six years to write the simple rhymes for Mama Mama. My pencil notes on the first draft say, "Came to me while falling asleep. Turned on the light, got out paper and wrote it down. Wasn't thinking at the moment of sons leaving for college. Thinking of a need for a good-bye poem/book for high school graduation. Thinking of Rosemary's* wonderful poetry in Bunny Planet." My first version goes like this:

"Rest on the soft side
Laugh on the lea
Dance with the treetops
Come back to me.

"Come back for a visit.
Return for a stay
Come home to rest
Make your own way

"Stay on the safe side
Keep to the bright side

"Revel in moonlight
Trust in the sun
Watch for shadows
Learn how to run

"Look at the stars
Look at the view
Hold onto friendship
Know what is true
Know that I'm always
Thinking of you.
Know that I'll always
Watch over you."

Orangutan? I guess right from the moment I awoke, I was thinking that the book would be illustrated with pictures of animals and that it would be for young children. Years went by. Every now and then I would work on the poem with different editors.

At one point, it went like this:

Little baby animals
Don't have any schools;
All they have to go by
Are Animal Rules.

The rules keep them safe,
The rules are tried and true,
And some of the rules
Might fit you, too.

Hunt, little fox,
Have a little fun,
But watch out for shadows,
And learn how to run!"


I am thankful for all the editors, especially the last one - Simone Kaplan, who helped me get this poem to its final place and thankful for the brilliant Laura Regan, whose beautiful warm illustrations brought Mama Mama finally to life in 1999. A year later we created Papa Papa. Eventually, HarperCollins printed them back to back to make one book:
Mama Mama / Papa Papa.

I actually like all the versions I wrote for these two - now one book, but I love the last one best. I'm glad I was patient - and I'm glad that I saved all of my drafts so that years later I can look back at them.

*Rosemary Wells, a friend and author of many books, including my favorite: Voyage to the Bunny Planet.





“Softly colored double-page spreads feature realistic-looking animal mothers and their babies, while simple four-line rhymes celebrate the love and care they give to them … Most libraries with board-book collections will want at least one copy of this gentle tribute to mothers and their little ones.”

“Sure to enchant very young readers. The book works in an unusual – and very charming – way. If you read "Mama Mama,'' you hold the book right side up. To read "Papa Papa," you have to turn it upside down”.

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