Let’s make one thing clear. Objectifying women isn’t cool. Rating women based on their looks is terrible. Being a sexist, misogynist dad — or dude — sucks. (Don’t agree? Please go away.) That said, it’s also undeniable that in the sleepless days of early fatherhood many fathers find themselves doing unexpected double takes. “That animated deer’s voice has a certain come-hither quality,” an exhausted dad slurs to himself. “And how is Ms. Frizzle single?”
And when it comes to the women of children’s literature, the picture books foldouts men see and re-see nightly, things get doubly weird. Moms in kids books are attractive — really attractive — in an ineffable but undeniable way. They’re so present! They’re so good at picking flowers! They can talk to animals! To pervert Jessica Rabbit’s famous line, “They’re not good, they’re just drawn that way.” And it’s hard when you haven’t slept for 20 hours and you’re rereading a rhyme for the 34th time, not to notice.
So, no, this isn’t exactly a list of Maxim-style kid lit sex symbols. It’s a list of very attentive fictional and largely non-human mothers who dance in my mind when I finally fall asleep after re-reading my kid’s favorite books over and over and over again.