cover image When Mama Retires

When Mama Retires

Karen Ackerman. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-679-80289-1

Many women--and some enlightened men--will attest to the fact that running a household and caring for children is an often thankless, full-time job. In this flashback to World War II Mama considers ``retiring'' from housework and taking on a factory job--``I could be a riveter,'' she tells her three sons. Charley, Henry and Will are a bit frightened by this proposition, so they offer little resistance as Mama shows them ``how to do some things around here.'' Ackerman's ( Song and Dance Man ) admirable heroine cuts a clear figure of a feminist at odds with her role in society. Mama honestly expresses her frustration but, reassuringly, never loses control of her emotions. Grace's wispy, pastel illustrations--reminiscent of fashion design sketches--considerably lighten the tone of the story, though at the same time their pallid tones and degree of stylization detract from its intensity. Ultimately, this is a satisfying--if somewhat pat--lesson in pitching in to do one's share. Ages 3-8. (Mar.)