Two Bristol creatives have collaborated to celebrate motherhood – the strength and courage as well as the cuddly softness – with a colourful new book exploring the extraordinary lengths mothers go to to protect their young
When a bear appeared, growling, outside her family’s tent while they were camping in Yosemite, California, Bristol author Gabrielle Kuzak grabbed her penknife – she was ready to fight. “In that moment, I knew I would do anything to protect my children, which was good because they were all asleep!” she remembers. “It got me thinking about amazing mums protecting their young in the wild. Who are they? What do they do?”
The hair-raising happening got Gabrielle thinking about the incredible stories of motherhood that must exist in the animal kingdom and how great it would be to tell these tales in a book for kids. It wasn’t until a few years later, though, that she had time to make something of the idea. Returning to Bristol, the family spent most weekends hiking, working towards a goal of walking the entire 630-mile length of the South West Coast Path.
During this time Gabrielle got bitten by a tick in Exmoor and contracted Lyme disease, spending 18 months battling debilitating symptoms and other infections triggered by the disease. Slowly she made a recovery, embarking on the book during lockdown – one really positive thing to come out of a difficult time – and herself demonstrating the book’s message: maternal strength is a marvel.
“Mothers are often portrayed as soft and cuddly which is partly true but the little-known stories in my book show that they are also strong and brave,” says Gabrielle, who enlisted illustrator and mum-of-one Hannah Broadway – creator of the 75-metre mural along Bristol harbourside – to bring the book joyfully to life. “Mums, across the planet, go to great lengths instinctively to protect, care for and bring up their young.”
Did you know, for instance, that an orangutan mother can make up to 15,000 nests in her lifetime without putting her baby down once? Or that a dolphin mother doesn’t sleep at all for the first month of her baby’s life to keep it safe?
Are you aware of which mother cares for its baby longer than any other mum in the world? With both International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day this month, it’s a very good time to find out, and to celebrate and appreciate mums of every kind.
Amazing Mums (suitable for children aged 4–8 years) is out now; amazing-mums.com