Tag Archive: adoption


counting by 7s

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance didn’t fit in well at her elementary school, so she is attending a middle school across town which none of her previous classmates will be attending.  But Willow is just not made to fit in with others.  She does fine with her adoptive parents who are accepting of her obsession with gardening and medical conditions as long as she doesn’t tell them everything since that would make them worry.  And one of the things she doesn’t tell them is that the middle school thinks that she cheated on a major standardized test because she got a perfect score.  So she is sent to counseling though Dell, the school counselor has no idea what to do to help her.  Two siblings who also go to see Dell have their own ideas though and that is how Willow comes to be out driving with Dell and the others when she finds out that her parents have been killed in a car accident.  Now Willow has lost her parents, her home, her garden and her will to explore.  This is a story that is about community, building your family one person at a time, and the wonder of what having people in your life that care can do.  It is the story of the amazing Willow Chase.

Sloan’s writing verges on verse at times with its short lines, lined up neatly and speaking profoundly and honestly.  It is writing that examines and explores but also moves the story forward at speed.  It is imminently readable with plenty of white space and few if any dense paragraphs of text.  Rather it has a wonderful lightness about it, even when describing tragedy.  And this book is filled with loss and grief that is handled with a gentle depth.  Yet it is also a book filled with joy and overcoming odds and inspiration. 

Sloan creates not just one incredible character in this novel but an entire group of them.  At first the book seems disjointed with the various perspectives shown, since we get to see things not only from Willow’s point of view, from the other teens, but also from the adults as well.  But those disparate parts come together in a way that a book from just Willow’s point of view never could have.  They add an understanding of Willow’s appeal to others that would not have been possible without it.

This is a tragic story with an indomitable heroine that will leave you smiling through the tears.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

rooftoppers

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Sophie was found floating in a cello case after a shipwreck, scooped out of the water by a fellow passenger, Charles, who became her guardian.  He was a single man and a scholar, and unlikely to be a suitable parent, but the two of them got along perfectly well.  The Welfare Agency did pursue the two of them and it finally got so bad that the two fled to Paris before Sophie could be sent to an orphanage.  Sophie knew that her mother was still alive although everyone else thought she was dead.  And her guardian always taught her to never ignore a possible.  So they searched Paris for her mother, following the clue she found in the cello case.  There she met Matteo, a boy who appeared in her skylight and led her to a world of the rooftops.  Together they search the roofs of Paris for the sound of her mother’s cello.  But how long can Sophie search before she is caught by the authorities?

Rundell writes so beautifully, it is impossible not to stop and linger over her phrases.  She uses unusual metaphors like “…he held her in his large hands – at arm’s length, as he would a leaky flowerpot…”  She also paints gorgeous images of her characters, “Think of nighttime with a speaking voice.  Or think how moonlight might talk, or think of ink, if ink had vocal chords.”  And she also vividly shows how characters think, “Mothers are a thing you need, like air, she thought, and water.  Even paper mothers were better than nothing – even imaginary ones.  Mothers were a place to put down your heart.  They were a resting stop to recover your breath.”  I could go on and on with quotes, since her entire novel is filled with moments like this.

Sophie and Charles are great characters, entirely unique and quirky.  At first they are living in a normal society where they don’t fit at all and the tension between them and normalcy is finely conveyed.  It is when she reaches the rooftops of Paris though that the book becomes pure quicksilver magic.  Impossible to put down, one wishes that they too could climb to the rooftops of Paris in the confident hands of Matteo, who is also a vivid and amazing character.

Profoundly original and filled with shining prose, this novel is a wondrous read.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.  Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster.

little cub

Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea

The author of the Gossie books returns with this companion book to Old Bear and His Cub that explains the way that Old Bear and Little Cub met.  Little Cub lived all alone near the forest with ono one to take care of him.  He was often hungry and slept alone and cold outside.  Old Bear lived alone too.  He had plenty to eat and a warm place to live, but no one to share it with.  Then one day, Old Bear heard odd noises coming from a pile of rocks.  It was Little Cub, trying to sleep curled into a ball.  It was Old Bear who named him Little Cub and Old Bear who took him home, gave him food, tucked him into a warm bed, and promised to teach him how to fish.  And it was Little Cub who filled up that empty bed so that neither of them had to be alone any more.

This is such a warm story.  Showing the way that Little Cub and Old Bear came together to be a family is honey rich.  Dunrea takes him time showing the parallels between the two bears’ lonely lives.  Though they are different in age, in being able to care for themselves, they are alike at heart and searching for something new. 

Dunrea’s writing is simple but also cheery.  Though it explores a child alone in the cold wilderness, one doesn’t worry because there is a sense of safety throughout.  Children will understand the hunger and chill and also that level of joy that is clear.  A large part of this are the illustrations that show blustery winds but also have the security and solidity of Old Bear right there too.  He is the hope for Little Cub, one that radiates across the pages.

Fans of Dunrea will enjoy this new series and those who read the first in the series will cheer to see Old Bear and Little Cub return.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel.

little chick and mommy cat

Little Chick and Mommy Cat by Marta Zafrilla, illustrated by Nora Hilb

Little Chick has been raised by Mommy Cat since she was still in an egg.  When Little Chick was very small, he thought that he was a cat too.  He tried to be a cat, but it didn’t work.  He couldn’t meow, or lick his paws or flick his tail.  His mother explained to him that he was not a cat, but a chick and his real mother was a hen. When the two of them would go out, others would stare at them because they were different.  His mother told him that it’s not bad to be different, what is bad is to want to be like everyone else.  His mother also made sure to give him time to be with other chicks by taking him to the Bird School so he could learn everything he needed to about being a chicken. The other chicks asked him all sorts of questions because his mother was so different from the others.  Little Chick though is happy to be part of his different but very loving family.

This picture book speaks directly to the issues of diversity and different types of families.  It will also be happily embraced by families who have adopted children, because it manages to explain clearly and with no hesitation the basic love and acceptance of diversity in adoptive families.  Small children will respond to the animal characters but easily also draw connections to themselves.

Zafrilla’s text is straight forward, tackling larger issues and bringing them to a level that small children will easily understand.  She builds an unlikely family and happily shows the love and attachment between a cat and a chick.  This is a book that is unlikely to be read as a straight animal story, because the connection to adoption is so clear.  That said, the clarity and honesty here is what makes it shine.

Hilb’s illustrations add a colorful touch to the story.  The colored pencil illustrations use delicate lines and soft colors to tell the story.  The feathers and fur beg to be petted with their textures. Hilb maintains the size difference throughout the story, further emphasizing the differences between the cat and her chick. 

This picture book focuses on diversity, love and the many forms it can come in.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Independent Publishers Group.

zoo girl

Zoo Girl by Rebecca Elliott (Link to InfoSoup)

Told in just a few words per page, this book tells the story of a little girl who doesn’t have a family.  At the orphanage she is lonely and has no friends.  Then the children visit the zoo and suddenly the little girl feels at home.  She is left behind at the zoo and the animals discover her.  They befriend her and she lives with them for awhile until the zookeepers discover her curled up with the tigers.  The little girl does not want to go, and the book ends with a happy ending where the little girl is adopted by the zookeeper couple.  The story is a simple one, told in only a few words, but the sense of belonging and being wanted remains a powerful message.

Elliott’s story is really told in the illustrations rather than the words.  Her art is a rich mix of texture, patterns, drawing and photographs.  The rather simply drawn characters and animals live in a world made dazzling.  Even the air itself seems to have its own feeling and shape.  The elephant has wonderful wrinkles, the tiger has plush fur, and the penguin’s feathers are swirled. 

Also, in the orphanage, the mood is not grim.  It is specifically this little girl who does not have friends and feels alone.  The other children are merry and playing with one another.  That changes the message quite a bit too.

Perfect for toddlers because of its brevity, this book is a very friendly way to talk about adoption.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

goyangi means cat

Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell, illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

When Soo Min joins her new American family from Korea, she doesn’t know any English at all.  Everything was strange and new, except for Goyangi, the cat.  Soo Min and Goyangi were friends from the start, with Goyangi curling up on her bed and comforting her in the middle of the night.  One morning, Goyangi escaped out the door.  Soo Min noticed at breakfast that Goyangi was gone.  She and her new mother called and called for the cat, but he did not return.  Back home after their search, Soo Min burst into tears.  She cried for losing Goyangi and also for her lost homeland.  Eventually, Soo Min fell asleep.  And when she awoke, her new father had come home along with someone else…

McDonnell, who is herself the mother of two Korean-born children, has captured the first days of international adoption with a gentleness and a deep understanding.  The focus of the book is Soo Min rather than the techniques her parents use to reach her.  Soo Min is given the space in the book to explore her new family and land without expectations.  The use of the cat as a bridge between cultures is a natural one, as is the deep connection that Soo Min finds with her feline friend.  The entire book has a sense of reality and lack of excess drama, which is very welcome here.

The illustrations are remarkable.  They are an appealing mix of collage, patterns, and softness.  At the same time, they play with line and language.  The cat’s fur is done in swirls, as you can see in the cover image above.  Lines are used throughout the illustrations, tying them visually together in a very subtle way.  Language is brought in with Korean words worked into the illustrations, again a bridge is formed in a visual way.

Highly recommended, this is one of the best books about international adoption I’ve seen.  The focus on the child’s point of view and its quality make it exceptional.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Also reviewed by Kiss the Book.

9780375857096

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark, illustrated by Patrice Barton

This is an adoption story that takes a more fairy tale approach.  In China, perfect baby is born.  However, her parents don’t have enough food for themselves and worry about the future of this tiny baby.  So they put trust in the moon and send their baby away down the river.  On the journey, several animals help that baby.  While she sleeps, she is carried by a turtle, flown high by a peacock, sheltered by a monkey, and guided by a panda.   On the other side of the world, a family is waiting for a child.  While they wait, they prepare for her.  They create a garden, plant trees, build her a room, and fill it with pretty things and lots of books.  They know she is there, but where?  They travel long distances following the moon’s path.  And when the moon paths of the baby and the family meet, so do they.

So often adoption books are about the concrete steps taken from one family to the next.  It is a pleasure to read a book that is whimsical and magical about adoption.  Clark’s writing celebrates the connection between child and new family while paying homage to the birth family as well.  The entire book is suffused in a gentle beauty that allows anyone reading to know immediately that this is a joyous tale. 

Barton’s illustrations are particularly fine.  From the first two-page spread of the new baby and her bright-eyed beauty, the illustrations are captivating.  They have a subtle humor to them as well as a soft touch that matches the tone of the book.  Done in sketches and then digitally, the images have interesting textures.

A very successful fairy-tale telling of the adoption story, this book may not answer the questions of how an adoption takes place, but it does speak to the magical nature of love.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Delacorte Dell.

The Best Family in the World by Susana Lopez, illustrated by Ulises Wensell.

When Carlota is told that she has been adopted by a family, she lets her imagination range over what kind of family she will be joining.  It could be a family of pastry chefs who would let her have chocolate pastries for every meal.  Or perhaps a pirate family who will let her search for treasure and wear an eye patch and a peg leg.  Maybe a family of tiger trainers so she could take a cub to school with her.  It might be a family of astronauts and she could count the stars to fall asleep at night.  When the Perez family shows up the next morning, they are the best family in the world for Carlota who finds many of her dreams have come true in small ways.  Most importantly, she has found a family that loves her.

This is a marvelous book about adoption.  It captures the dreams of the child and then the reality itself where the reality may not be as flashy but is perfect none-the-less because they love her.  Created by an author and illustrator from Spain, this book is universally appealing.  Lopez’s text is friendly and effusive.  The daydreams are fanciful and interesting, but Lopez has allowed the reality to be the real star here.  Wensell’s illustrations are charming and friendly.  They invite young readers into the story, reveal the humor of the daydreams, and linger lovingly and warmly on the real family.

Recommended for all library collections, this book about adoption is something special.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kane Miller Publishing.

Also reviewed by Jen Robinson and A Patchwork of Books.

Star of the Week

Star of the Week: a story of love, adoption, and brownies with sprinkles by Darlene Friedman, illustrated by Roger Roth

It is Cassidy-Li’s turn to be star of the week in her Kindergarten class.  She and her mom are making brownies with sprinkles and she also has to make a poster about herself.  As she looks through photographs, Cassidy-Li’s history as an adopted baby from China is told.  Her parents holding her in China, the first person to meet her at the airport, her cousins, her best friends, and her pets.  But she doesn’t have any pictures of her birth parents, so there is a hole in her poster.  She fixes it by drawing a picture of these people she has never met.  She is nervous about her poster and about answering questions about her adoption.  But by the end of the day, she realizes that she really is a star.

The beauty of this book is that Cassidy-Li is a wonderfully normal kid with the same sort of worries that others have about their star week.  And yet she has a unique background, multicultural friends, connections to China, and a more complicated story to tell.  Friedman does a great job in balancing the two, creating a character who is unique but universal.  The story is told in very brief prose, with the illustrations telling a lot of the tale too.  Roth’s pictures also create a bridge between Cassidy-Li’s special background and her being a regular American kid. 

Recommended for all families, this book is about connections, understanding, and being special.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by A Year of Reading and A Patchwork of Books.

Ten Days and Nine Nights: an adoption story by Yumi Heo

A little girl waits for ten days and nine nights for her new sister to arrive.  As each day passes, she prepares for the new baby, keeping a countdown all the while.  She helps redecorate her room, practices with a doll, washes her teddy bear, and waits.  In between the little girl’s activities, readers will glimpse what is going on with her mother in Korea as she travels there to get the baby. 

Heo’s text is friendly and the countdown keeps the pace of the book brisk.  Her art is filled with sunshine yellows and deep reds, a palate that is warm and bright.  The images featuring the mother in Korea are done in deep blue tones with bright pops of color, making the two settings easily distinguishable for young readers. 

An engaging look at an older siblings waiting for an adoption to be complete, this is a universal story that all readers will relate to whether their siblings are adopted or not.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

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