Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ais for Adoption, B is for Books

This month, look for a two-part series on adoption. This first part presents books on adoption in a general fashion, while the second part will focus on overseas adoption, particularly from China and Korea.

Adoptive children often have questions about their origins, and parents just as often have a difficult time addressing the questions or the issue as a whole. Parenting books on talking to your child are very helpful in giving suggestions for opening the topic and thinking in advance about what you as a parent might want to tell you child. But how to start the conversation with your child? Sometimes it helps to have a starting place, something to raise the subject, and something that lets your child know at the same time that they are not alone. This is where a children’s book on the topic at hand can be a wonderful tool. I have included books that I really like and books that I am not so fond of here, with notes about those I found particularly good, so that you can get a sense of what is out there for you, should you want to talk about adoption (theirs or someone else’s) with your child.

The Day We Met You, by Phoebe Koehler (1990)

A very simple book about the preparations that were made to receive the new baby, this would be a good first read for a very young child. With bright and simple illustrations of everyday things in the home, this book is designed to comfort while beginning to address the issue of where a child has come from.

Steven’s Baseball Mitt, by Kathy Stinson, ill. Robin Baird Lewis (1992)

Here, Kathy Stinson works the same magic that made Red Is Best so wonderful – she somehow puts a child’s feelings into just the sort of words a child might use. Steven talks frankly about how he feels different – sometimes good, sometimes bad – and how he wonders about his birth mother, even though in the end, he couldn’t imagine living in a different family. I think this book tackles the emotional side of growing up adopted in a more straightforward manner than most, and does it in a way that makes it clear it’s okay to both wonder about where you came from and love being where you are. I heart Kathy Stinson!

A Koala for Katie, by Jonathan London, ill. Cynthia Jabar (1993)

This older book is perhaps my favourite of the lot. In it, Katie asks her parents about where she came from, and it is clear that the conversation has happened before – and indeed, it is the sort of talk that will have to happen again and again over a child’s life as they grow and understand in different ways. Katie’s mom tells her that her first mommy was too young to take good care of her, but loved her and wanted a good life for her. On an outing to the zoo, Katie applies her questions to a baby koala she sees and furthers her understanding by “adopting” a stuffed version. She playacts taking care of her koala, becoming its mommy. I like the way this shows how a child assimilates information in imaginative play, as well as the informative note from the Northwest Adoption Exchange at the beginning of the book. Note: This is no longer widely available at the library, as it is an older book, but is still in print in paperback (0807542105).

Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis (1996)

I like the warm tone of this sweet and sometimes funny remembrance of the excitement adoptive parents feel about the birth of their long-awaited child. In it, a child asks her adoptive parents to tell her the story of her birth. This one particularly has a warm and familiar feel without straying into the sappy – it’s clear from the telling that the tale is well-worn and much told.

Over the Moon, by Karen Katz (1997)

This colourful book is a bit about waiting for an adoptive baby, a bit about the voyage to pick one up, and a bit about learning to take care of a new baby. There is a brief mention of talking about how she grew in another woman, but by and large, this book does not seek to address those questions, just to recount a bit about how the family became a unit. Note: This book, too, is not widely available in libraries due to its age, but is still in print in both hardcover (0805050132) and paper (0805067078).

We Wanted You, by Liz Rosenberg, ill. Peter Catalanotto (2002)

Luminously illustrated, this simple book is focused exactly what the title puts forth – that the adoptive parents wanted and waited for their child. Some mention is made of preparing while waiting, and of the fact that they were not the child’s first parents, but it is very brief. This books does not take on any of the issues or discussions a family might have, but seems very much geared towards reassuring a child that they are cherished, ending in the phrase, “And we still do.”

You’re Not My Real Mother! by Molly Friedrich, ill. Christy Hale (2004)

This book focuses on the many things an adoptive parent does that make them a “real” mother, with only a brief stop to discuss that the mother doesn’t look like the daughter because she was not her birth mother, to whom this “real” mother is grateful every day. This book puts the emphasis squarely on the idea that a mother is born of love, not just of pregnancy, which I like. That said, I don’t love this book that much. Perhaps because of the structure (starting with a child telling her mother she’s not her “real” mother and her mother proving that she is), perhaps because of the way love is demonstrated through recounting the things she’s done for her (though I understand that urge, as a mom!), it feels a bit defensive, though I do feel that the love comes through nonetheless.

Megan’s Birthday Tree: A Story About Open Adoption, by Laurie Lears, ill. Bill Farnsworth (2005)

The only book I’ve seen among these that directly talks about open adoption, this young girl counts her birth mother among her family friends. The two share a connection, made tangible by Megan’s “birthday tree.” When her birth mother is going to move house, Megan is worried that she will forget about her and looks for a replacement tree to send along, but she soon finds that the original is already packed to move, too. The book ends on a nice note of shared caring and connection.

Mama, by Jeanette Winters (2006)

This lovely, folk-artish book uses the story of Owen and Mzee, the famed hippo-and-tortoise duo from the Tsunami of 2004, in nearly wordless form to show how a new family can form as the young hippo adopts the tortoise as his mother. This story is sweet and very understated in the parallel it draws.

Find these and more books about adoption at a public library near you!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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