by Judy Olausen

Strapping mom to the roof of a Plymouth might not seem like much of a Mother's Day salute, but that's just what it is in this strange, unnerving picture book by Minneapolis photographer Judy Olausen.

Most appreciative daughters just send flowers, but Olausen has plopped her sweet, 74-year-old mother, Vivian, into 60 kitschy tableaus that satirize the restrictive roles mothers played in the 1950s. The spirited Vivian, who was indeed a stay-at-home wife and mother of three, dons a ratty fur coat emblazoned with 'Welcome' for Mother as Doormat, lugs a giant cross in Mother Goes to Market and straps on a pair of antlers for the Plymouth picture, Mommy Deer. Many shots are hilarious, some are poignant and provocative, but all benefit from Vivian's rubber-faced expressiveness, which should turn her into a mini-celebrity in Minneapolis.

"I sure hope not," the soft-spoken, first-time model told PEOPLE. "I wouldn't know what to do. I can disguise myself pretty well, though." Closer than ever to her daughter (her husband, George, died in 1987), Vivian scoffs at the idea that her precarious poses amount to exploitation ("They're all just supposed to be funny"), though she realizes some men her age "might take a dim view" of the book's strong imagery.

In fact, a male executive at the book's publisher lobbied against the project. "Maybe his mother was a bad cook," says Vivian, who calls her participation "the chance of a lifetime to get around a bit. I used to be lucky if I could save up enough to get to St. Paul." Now she's off on an 11-city book tour with Judy, and she even gets to ride inside the car. (Penguin, $24.95)

by Dave's Mom, Dorothy, with Jess Cagle

It's hard to feel sorry for a man who makes $14 million a year, but David Letterman has been getting roughed up lately. He was critically mauled for his goofy hosting of 1995's Academy Awards, came off as a twitchy nebbish in HBO's The Late Shift, and his rival Jay Leno regularly beats him in the ratings. It's all enough to make a grown man run home to mommy.

Which, in Dave's case, turns out to be a savvy maneuver, given the abundant charm of this down-home cookbook by his mom, Dorothy, herself a celebrity of sorts thanks to folksy appearances on The Late Show. The beleaguered Letterman, who presumably could have put the kibosh on the cookbook but instead posed for the cover and contributed a joke-filled foreword, gets an image boost from this handsome collection of recipes, anecdotes and "specially selected photographs from the Letterman family album."

Dorothy's Betty Crocker-style dishes won't win any culinary awards, though; Home Cookin' (written with Cagle, a senior writer at ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and former PEOPLE reporter) serves up standard heartland fare (Hoosier Chili, Homemade Applesauce) alongside artery-clogging oddities like Cheese Straws, Sauerkraut Balls and, of course, Dave's Fried Baloney Sandwich.

The real treats are the old-fashioned photos. Pictures of Dave as a gap-toothed little boy and gawky teenager offer a warm peek at a private man who usually hides behind a smirk and a cigar. Dorothy Letterman's affectionate cookbook is the best thing to happen to her son in months. (Pocket, $20)

Photographs by Mariana Cook

Although several of the people in Cook's second volume of parent-child portraits are famous—Steven Spielberg, Henry Kissinger, Robin Williams, Mary Higgins Clark and Bill Clinton, among others—and most are accomplished artists and professionals, fame and fortune in the usual sense are not the book's key concerns.

In her exquisitely lit, black-and-white pictures (she uses no artificial light), and especially in the accompanying first-person statements, Cook catalogs the positive possibilities and challenges of the mother-son relationship. The texts—by the mothers and their sons, most of them now grownups themselves—speak of abiding love and mutual admiration despite travails, foibles and exasperations.

Cook, 40, a Manhattan-based photographer whose last book explored fathers and daughters, seems to let each mother-and-son pair find its own pose. No two are the same. Yet all 78 pictures share a certain glow—that conferred by the photographer's high regard for the durability and depth of the relationships. The pictures say this is her subjects' true claim to fame. (Chronicle, $22.95)

>Vicki Iovine

STRAIGHT TALK ON BIRTHIN' BABIES

WHEN VICKI IOVINE LEARNED SHE WAS going to be a mother for the first time eight years ago, she says, "I bought every book on the subject and found that they all presumed there was a perfect way to do pregnancy and I was getting an F. In the end," she adds, "90 percent of the information I needed to get me through came from my girlfriends who already had children."

What Iovine really needed was the book she wrote, The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy (Pocket, $10), a chatty, candid, laugh-out-loud primer for unseasoned moms-to-be.

"Pregnancy is not something you control; it's about maintaining a flexible attitude because somewhere along the line you will feel that you're the victim of the body snatchers," says the author, now a seasoned mom of four. Iovine leaves the medical minutiae to physicians and tackles subjects ranging from nausea to nursing, mood swings to stretch marks, pain to packing for the hospital (leave the flowery nightgowns and matching robes home—giving birth is a messy business).

Iovine's irreverent guide is not for women who have breezed through the birth process with their weight, temperament and fashion sense fully under control. "It's for those of us," she notes, "who have considered murdering our husbands in their sleep because we thought we heard them say 'Moo' when we were getting dressed."

The daughter of an L.A. police officer, Iovine, 42, a Hastings law school grad, former Playboy centerfold and television producer, lives with her brood in Malibu (husband Jimmy, the cofounder of Interscope Records, produces Dr. Dre, Nine Inch Nails and Bush, among others). Next project on her drawing board: The Girlfriends' Guide to the First Year of Motherhood. "Pregnancy is tough, but it's worth the price," says Iovine. "Learning to surrender is a good lesson."

  • Contributors:
  • Alex Tresniowski,
  • Eric Levin,
  • Kristin McMurran.