With Rockliff's plainspoken lyricism providing scaffolding for Low's incandescent realism, the story of a struggling family transformed through the joy and power of meaningful work is woven into the history of a beloved spiritual landmark. Whether the scene is inside the narrator's modest apartment or looking down from the barrel vault ceiling onto the cathedral's magnificent nave, every page is infused with golden light, quiet pride, and soaring hope.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Rockliff's lyrical text celebrates collaboration and communion, whether as voices rising in a cathedral hymn or among the skilled workers who labored over more than a century. Low renders many gorgeous digital spreads, articulating the extraordinary light and deep shadows within and outside the architecturally splendid cathedral.
Both text and pictures radiate a sense of the dignity and pride felt first by this African American woman and then by her son. Low's impressive digital illustrations create a vivid sense of place, particularly at the cathedral. A quiet but beautiful picture book.
The story is quiet and serious, honestly showing Momma's exhaustion at the end of the work day and thoughtfully exploring the boy's growing understanding of the building project ("I think about the hands that worked on every stone until it was exactly right, knowing that it had to hold up all the rest"). It's an effective solemnity, underscoring the importance of taking the time to do something right and putting effort into ensuring beauty and strength.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
This is the rare children's book that shows how a building is built with less of an emphasis on cranes and bulldozers and more on the difficult work of laboring hands. But it’s not only about the grueling hardness of labor; ME AND MOMMA AND BIG JOHN is also about the rewards of a labor of love, and of a job well done.
—New York Times online
Rockliff's story is told in lyrical prose with a heavy dose of figurative language. Low's incandescent illustrations beautifully complement the descriptive text. Light and shadow are cleverly used to help set the mood and tone.
—Library Media Connection
Luminous digital paintings create warm family scenes and bright cityscapes, and capture the majesty of the building. Light and shadow are deftly employed to create drama and depth, heighten emotion, and portray the sacred nature of the structure and the spirit of community it engenders. Featuring a close-knit African American family, this is a lovely addition.
—School Library Journal
If Mara Rockliff's ME AND MOMMA AND BIG JOHN does nothing else (and it does a lot) it leads kids to understand that for every great awe-inspiring behemoth in their lives, there were countless everyday joes working hard, making a living, turning pencil sketches on blue paper into reality.
—A Fuse #8 Production (SLJ blog)