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10 of the Best Parents in Fiction

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It’s a lot more difficult than you might think to find good parents in fiction: Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of fiction deals either with the lack of a parent—being a cardinal rule of children’s fiction to ditch the parents—or a parent’s complete unsuitability for the role. But there are a few out there, parents who make you think, “Gee, I wish my parents were like that.”

Here’s our totally comprehensive, really scientific overview of good parenting in fiction:

1. Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The widowed father of Jem and Scout, Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes of American literature. Steering his young children along the path of moral rectitude is hard in the Jim Crow South, and when Atticus, a lawyer, unsuccessfully defends an innocent black man from charges that he raped a white woman, it becomes even more difficult. But his own belief in rightness, morality, and good, even in the face of an unfair world, is communicated to his kids — and to the world. His impact on the legal profession, especially in the South, was also profound: The Atticus Finch Society, part of the Alabama Law Foundation, was founded to serve the legal needs of the poor and named after a fictional lawyer who “epitomizes the type of professional, and person, lawyers strive to be.”

2. Alex and Kate Murry
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Tesseracts are real and Meg and Charles Murry’s scientist father has disappeared into one—and it’s up to these two brilliant but socially awkward children to save him. When it was published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time was a sci-fi gift to all those nerdy kids out there for whom Star Trek hadn’t been invented yet. And the Murry parents—beautiful and smart microbiologist Kate and tesseract physicist Alex—made being scientists seem so cool. Who wouldn’t want parents like that?

3. The Weasleys
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Harry Potter wanted them to adopt him—and we wouldn’t mind either. Though Harry was already remarkably well-adjusted for a child who’d been forced to sleep in the spider-filled cupboard under the stairs, his friendship with Ron Weasley and his family showed him what a loving family really looked like. Mom Molly Weasley was kind, fiercely protective of her children—her battle with Bellatrix Lestrange in the final book was immensely satisfying—and knits a mean jumper. Dad Arthur Weasley was slightly bumbling, loves Muggle stuff, and still a kid at heart. Best of all, they loved each other as much as they loved their children.

4. Marmee
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Marmee is the glue that holds the Little Women together through the Civil War and their father’s long absence. Kind and charitable, she’s their moral compass, their comfort in troubled times. Without her, the four girls, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth, are lost.

5. Mr. and Mrs. Little
Stuart Little by EB White

Interspecies procreation is typically cause for concern, but not for Mr. and Mrs. Little. When their son, Stuart, was born a mouse, the kind, though perhaps a bit dense, Littles treated him just like any other member of the family. A member of the family who had a long tail, whiskers, slept in a cigarette box and could climb up lamp cords.

6. Ma and Pa Ingalls
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Though Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of growing up in the Indian Territory, now Kansas, in the mid to late 19th century are actually autobiographical, the books tend to be found in the children’s fiction part of the bookstore, so they make the list. Pa was a true pioneer with a serious case of wanderlust: He could build a house by hand and skin a rabbit, but still remained a gentleman, kind, courteous and upstanding. Ma Ingalls, a true pioneer’s wife, instructed her children to treat others with care.

7. Mr. and Mrs. Quimby
Ramona series by Beverly Cleary


Ramona Quimby, age 8, is a bit of a handful. Her imagination—and she’s got lots of it—often gets her into situations, like the time she went to school with her pajamas under her clothes because she was pretending to be a fireman. Or the time she put her doll in the oven. Or the time she squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink.


Her parents, Bob and Dorothy, meanwhile, are real parents, who have to deal with real things like quitting smoking, having children young, getting laid off, and 8-year-olds who accidentally dye themselves blue. And they even get in fights, like real parents do. But throughout it all, they manage to remain patient and affectionate with their children; they’re not perfect, but they’re pretty good.

8. Carlisle and Esme Cullen
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

OK, so they’re vampires. But they’re good vampires, with fabulous dress sense, lots of money, and consciences. Carlisle Cullen is a doctor at the local hospital, having overcome his natural vampiric attraction to blood, and is the founder of the Forks coven that includes dreamy Edward. His compassion and kindness is what keeps the family “vegetarian” and from draining the little rainy town dry. His wife, Esme, loves her adopted children deeply and is the kind of warm, calming influence the family needs. Best of all, they love Bella, Edward’s human beloved, as one of their own.

9. Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the Blank Panther, and the wolves
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

After they save him from becoming tiger Shere Khan’s meal, Father Wolf and Mother Wolf raise the hairless man-cub Mowgli as one of their own. But it’s up to Baloo the sleepy bear and Bagheera the panther to teach the boy the Law of the Jungle—thereby becoming the coolest godparents in the world.

10. The Gilbreths
Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

So, the Gilbreths were actual people, not fiction, and this charming book, published in 1948, is a biography written by their children. But—and we mean this as a compliment—the parents are so lovely as to almost seem made up. Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian, are world-famous efficiency experts whose studies in time and motion changed the way people worked. If Frank had his way, it would have also changed the way people raised children, especially after their incredible fecundity produced 12 children. Having an even dozen children meant that the Gilbreths could apply some of their expertise in their Montclair, New Jersey, home. Hilarity ensues, as does an overwhelming sense of warmth and happiness.

The two children wrote a follow up book, Belles on Their Toes, recounting what happened after Frank’s death in 1924, which left Lillian with house full of children, the youngest just 2 years old, and a business to run. Mother Lillian manages to keep it all together, with good humor and warmth, and the book manages to stay away from the maudlin.

Now it's your turn. Who would you add to the list?

Today is October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we've got all our writers working on 10 lists, which we'll be posting throughout the day and night. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.

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10 Stars Who Appeared on Saved by the Bell
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While the main cast of Saved by the Bell had varied success in their post-Bayside lives, many of the show's guests star went on to achieve Hollywood success. Here's 10 appearances by now-notable performers.

1. Christine Taylor
The former fake Marcia Brady and current Mrs. Ben Stiller appeared in a 1991 episode of the series (titled "S.A.T.s") where goof-off Zack Morris miraculously scored higher on his SATs than over-achiever Jessie Spano. When Christine's character Heather learned of Zack's great score, she begged him to help her study.

2. Soleil Moon Frye

The Punky Brewster actress appeared in a season four episode of the show during which Screech "invents" a new kind of spaghetti sauce and gets rich quick (using the tag line, "The sauce-a you can have, but the secret? She's-a mine!") But, when it turns out that the geek's recipe isn't legit and he loses it all, Frye ditches him.

3. Scott Wolf
Though he later became a teen heartthrob with his role on Party of Five, Scott Wolf paid his dues as an unnamed extra on Saved by the Bell. He appeared as a waiter at the Max, a movie patron, and as a member of the chorus in various episodes. You can see him in the green sweater standing next to Jessi Spano in this clip.

4. Leah Remini
The queen of Queens is one of the best-known guest stars of Saved by the Bell. She played Stacey Carosi, daughter of the Malibu Sands Beach Club owner Leon Carosi (played by Ernie Sabella aka the voice of Pumbaa in The Lion King). Her role lasted seven episodes and included her signature New York accent.

5. Eric Dane
Now better known as McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy, Eric Dane popped up in a summer episode of Saved by the Bell, while the gang was working at the Malibu Sands Beach Club. He played a former boyfriend of Stacey Carosi and an opponent in an annual volleyball competition. Sneak a peek of him here, in the neon orange shirt.

6. Tori Spelling
After years of chasing Lisa Turtle, Screech finally finds love in Violet Bickerstaff. She appeared in three episodes, including an episode called "House Party," where the gang takes over Screech's house while his parents' are away for the weekend. There is an infamous scene featuring Zack, Slater, and Screech lip syncing to "Barbara Ann."

7. Denise Richards
In the final episode filmed at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, Slater is pursued by Denise Richards, who has some unusual tactics for getting attention, including pretending to drown so he'll have to rescue her.

8. Bridgette Wilson
In 1992, Wilson (who you know from all sorts of movies, including I Know What You Did Last Summer and Billy Madison) appeared in five episodes of Saved by the Bell as Ginger, a ditsy blond. Wilson was not always credited for this role

9. Rena Sofer
Best known for roles on 24 (Marilyn Bauer), NCIS (Margaret Allison Hart), and Melrose Place (Eve Cleary), Sofer appeared as a single mom (and Zack's love interest, naturally) in 1992's made-for-TV Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style movie.

10. Casey Kasem
Playing himself, the well-known radio personality (and voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo), appeared twice on Saved by the Bell — first as the host of a dance contest at the Max and the second as the narrator of the episode titled "Rockumentary," during which Zack dreams of the gang (sans Jessi) as Zack Attack, a popular band that rises and falls.

And with this post, our 10.10.10 celebration (that spilled into 10.11.10) comes to an end. Let's do this again November 11, 2011! To see all our 10 lists from the last two days, click here.

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10 Awkward Speeches, Interviews and Rants
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Pass the mic and prepare for the worst. Here we have 10 awkward speeches, broken interviews, and impromptu rants by celebrities and public officials.

1. In this 1992 Hangin' With MTV interview with Faith No More, vocalist Mike Patton is too busy picking his nose to even listen to the questions.

2. A young Henry Rollins, way back in 1985, turns the tables on the interviewer. Intimidating? Just a little?

3. Sometimes an interview goes smoothly, like this one from 1980 with Dead Kennedys singer, Jello Biafra. Until the final question is asked. Huh?

4. Or, maybe the subject has just had a bad day in the studio, like Mark Motherbaugh of Devo did.

5. And you can't expect a trained killing machine to be coherent after beating someone up, as Mike Tyson demonstrates, in this video from 2000.

6. In 1986, Frank Zappa appeared on CNN's Crossfire... and let the other guest know what he can kiss.

7. At the 2004 Toronto Film Festival, actor Ed Harris demonstrates what the movie, A History of Violence, is about. Yikes.

8. Nardwuar, The Human Serviette is a brutal and obnoxious interviewer from Canada. Most celebrities run from him. But he is no match for Andrew WK, who slices open his own forehead on camera.

9. The late Harvey Pekar made many appearances on David Letterman's show. Unfortunately, he never started his own.

10. Finally, we arrive at what could be a new reality TV show called Bureacracy... starring the Vancouver City, WA City Council.

So, what did we learn about speaking into a mic? Don't stress. It's best when everything goes wrong.

Yesterday was October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we planned a bunch of 10 lists, and the mass listeria has spilled into 10.11.10. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.

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