Tag: adoption

The Story I’ll Tell by Nancy Tupper Ling

The Story Ill Tell by Nancy Tupper Ling

The Story I’ll Tell by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Jessica Lanan (InfoSoup)

An adoptive mother knows that her son will eventually ask her where he came from. She dreams of what she will tell him. Perhaps that he floated down from a hot-air balloon. Or that he was delivered by horseback by a man in a cape. Or that she found him in the garden among the tiger lilies. Or that she rescued him from a dragon queen. But the story of where he really came from is special enough, filled with joy and tears, with winged flight over the ocean. That is the story to tell.

Each of the stories that the boy’s mother creates contains a touch of truth. Throughout there is a tie to China, there is flight, crossing long distances, and a story of rescue. This imaginative look at the power of international adoption and the formation of a family is endearing and magical. The stories create a beautiful rhythm among themselves, dancing and weaving a tale that invites children to see their adoption as something particularly special.

Lanan’s art evokes that same special magical feel. Throughout the book, there are creatures in the clouds, dragons rising into the sun, roosters summoning dawn. Each shows a future part of the story, the tiger lilies gracing the garden gate long before they are mentioned in the book. Fish float on walls, ribbons tie each experience to the next. It is a rich tapestry of illustration filled with Chinese symbols.

A gem of a book for adoptive families, this picture book conveys the joy of adoption and the wonder of finding one another and forming a family. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Lee & Low Books and Edelweiss.

Review: Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Mother Bruce by Ryan T Higgins

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins (InfoSoup)

Bruce is a bear who likes very little in life. But he loves eggs. He finds complicated recipes on the internet that he tries out. When he discovers a recipe for goose eggs, he immediately heads into the forest to source the items. Back home, he puts the eggs in water but then has to run out for firewood. Returning home, he finds that the eggs have hatched into four goslings. He considers eating them with butter, but loses his appetite. He tries to return them, but Mother Goose has left for the winter. So he is stuck with the four little goslings who follow him everywhere. He tries to make the best of it, but it’s very challenging for one grumpy bear to suddenly be a mother to four little birds.

Higgins has created a laugh-out-loud funny picture book about a bear who finds himself unable to say no to parenting four goslings. The humor is wonderfully silly, from the way that Bruce “shops” and “locally sources” his ingredients in the forest to the attempts to get the geese to migrate south. The book shows that this grumpy bear has a heart of gold as he cares deeply for the geese and allows his entire life to be changed by them without getting overly mushy at all. The ending too was a surprise, one that fits perfectly but I didn’t expect at all.

A lot of the humor of this picture book is carried in its illustrations which have a real attitude of their own and a point of view. Readers will fall for Bruce despite his grumpiness thanks to the illustrations alone. The little goslings too are a delight as they imitate Bruce, drape themselves around, and explore the world. The illustrations of the goslings as teens is perfection.

Funny, perfect to read aloud, and a surprise of an autumnal read, this picture book is great fun. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Red Butterfly by A. L. Sonnichsen

red butterfly

Red Butterfly by A. L. Sonnichsen

Kara was abandoned as an infant and taken in by an American woman living in China. Her Mama never leaves the apartment they share and Kara doesn’t attend school. Kara does get to leave the apartment each day to run errands on her bicycle, her favorite time of day. In China where the one-child limit is in effect, parents leave infants who have physical challenges like Kara who was born with one hand with only two small fingers on it. Mama longs to return to the United States, but she can’t without abandoning Kara, who has no identification papers and has not been formally adopted. When Mama’s American daughter comes to visit, Kara finds their entire lives turned upside down and their secret exposed. Will Kara be able to bring their family back together again?

Told in lovely rich verse, this novel is elegantly written and conceived. It shows the results of the one-child policy in China and the children who were abandoned because of it. Yet it is far from a condemnation of China or the United States. It is a portrait in contrasts and complexity, showing that there is good and bad in both systems. It is also the story of one very strong young girl who has already lost one family and is determined not to lose another.

Kara is the voice of the book with the poems told from her point of view. She is unique in many ways, including being able to speak English better than she Chinese due to her upbringing. Kara’s disability is handled in a matter-of-fact way for the reader. While she is profoundly ashamed of it, her hand and disability do not label her at all in the novel. Kara’s situation is complicated by the politics of adoption and identity. In her journey to a resolution of where she will live, there are episodes in an orphanage and then later in a home in the United States. These are all deftly and clearly drawn, showing both the universal nature of family and love but also the differences in cultures.

Radiant verse and a very strong young protagonist make this verse novel a treat to read. The unusual subject matter of an older orphan from China makes it a unique read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books.

Review: Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

wolfie the bunny

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

When the bunny family came home, they found a little bundle on their doorstep. It was a baby wolf! Mama and Papa were thrilled to take him in, but Dot knew that the wolf was going to eat them all. Still, the bunny family took Wolfie in. Dot kept an eye on him all night long, and tried again at breakfast to warn her family that they were going to be eaten. No one listened, again. Finally, Dot’s friends agreed that Dot was right and they went to play somewhere else. When she got back, Wolfie would not leave Dot alone. Days went by and Wolfie started to grow and grow. He also started to eat and eat, so Dot was sent to the store along with Wolfie. It was there that Wolfie finally showed his fangs, but it doesn’t turn out in the way that Dot was expecting!

Dyckman has created a very clever little book that shows adoption and new siblings in a fresh way. Dot is convinced from the very beginning that taking in Wolfie is a bad idea and that it will be catastrophic for her family. This feeling of doom is very much what human children feel when a new baby is announced. Wolfie goes through all of the steps of a new sibling, from getting all of the attention to being a pest. Yet through the entire book, Dyckman keeps the focus on wolves and bunnies and how it will all play out, creating a welcome added dynamic to the story.

OHora’s illustrations add to the humor on the page. Done in acrylic, the illustrations have a signature flat feeling to them that is very modern. They capture the cheerful bunny family, the worried Dot, and the adorable Wolfie. OHora also creates a dynamic neighborhood for the story to take place in that makes the entire book feel grounded and real. Or as real as a book about wolves and bunnies can be.

Clever, funny and bright, this picture book captures have a new sibling in a fresh way. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

half a world away

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Jaden was adopted from Romania four years ago.  He knows that he’s a huge disappointment to his adoptive parents, who had expected a much younger child than the 8-year-old who came off the plane.  Jaden gets angry sometimes and shows it in destructive ways like burning his stuffed animal.  He also hoards food, particularly bread.  He is obsessed with electricity and can’t seem to stop his bouts of aggressive running that always end with him hurting himself.  Now his parents are heading to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby from there.  But Jaden knows that he is being replaced by this new baby, a way to fix the failure that he has been.  When the family gets to Kazakhstan though, the baby they had chosen has already been adopted.  Now they have a new baby to try to bond with and it doesn’t feel right to any of them.  Meanwhile, Jaden has met a toddler named Dimash who is three years old and barely talks.  Jaden feels an immense bond with Dimash, but his parents say that they came for a baby.  For the first time, Jaden starts to feel a powerful emotion that is not pure rage.  The question is what he can do with this newfound love.

Kadohata gives us a completely unique novel for children.  The point of view of an adopted child is not new, but one this troubled and angry in a children’s novel is a powerful new voice.  As a character Jaden is a study in complexity and contradictions.  His emotions are constantly high, but he mainly feels rage.  He has never felt love, but manages to make connections with people that are meaningful for them.  He is not a stereotype in any way, wildly human and profoundly troubled. 

Yet Kadohata allows us to live with this boy without fixing him, without changing him, just allowing him to grow before us.  While Jaden does have a therapist and it is clear he is getting all the help his parents can find, that is not the focus of this book.  It is not a book about repairing the damaged child, rather it is one that gives that child a voice.  That’s courage in writing.

Strong, marvelous writing allows this book to be a stirring tale of love in its many forms.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 

Review: Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio

gaston

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrations by Christian Robinson

Gaston lives with his mother and his three siblings, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La.  They are all poodles, but Gaston is something else.  He worked hard to be the best poodle puppy he could be, not slobbering, barking correctly and walking gracefully.  When the poodle family went to the park, they met a bulldog family there that had its own unusual family member who looked like a poodle.  There had clearly been a mix up!  So Gaston switches places with Antoinette.  Now the families look just the way they should, but neither Antoinette or Gaston seem to feel right in their “correct” families.  What is a dog to do?

Right from the first pages, readers will know that there is something unusual about Gaston and how he fits into his family.  It all becomes clear once the other dog family appears in the story and readers may think that fixing the mix up is the resolution of the story.  Happily, it isn’t and the book becomes more about where you feel you fit in rather than where the world might place you.  Gaston is a great mix of energetic bulldog puppy and also a prim poodle attitude.  Antoinette is the reverse, a delicate poodle who plays like a bulldog. 

Robinson’s illustrations are done in acrylic paint that gives texture to the images.  The bold illustrations have bursts of color throughout and are done in a large format that will work well when shared with a group.  All of the dogs have charm, though readers will immediate fall for the bright spunk of Gaston in particular. 

A book about adoption and families that doesn’t hit too hard with the message of inclusiveness and diversity.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: A Mom for Umande by Maria Faulconer

mom for umande

A Mom for Umande by Maria Faulconer, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

Based on a true story, this picture book tells of how a baby gorilla found a mother of his own.  When Umande was born, his mother didn’t know how to care for him.  So the keepers of the zoo had to step in and help, taking care of his infant needs and later showing him to to play and eat as a young gorilla.  After he was 8 months old, the zoo moved Umande to a different zoo across the country where Lulu, an experienced gorilla mother was waiting for him.  They were slowly introduced to one another, but soon enough they were a pair.  Umande had found his mother!

This story of a baby gorilla makes a wonderful picture book.  Faulconer uses just enough detail about the zoo staff and the efforts they took to raise baby Umande to make it fascinating.  She keeps the pace brisk and the story moving forward, making it just the right length for young readers to enjoy.  The text also reads aloud well, and this would be a nice addition to story times about mothers.

Hartung’s art captures the charm of gorillas on the page.  Even though Umande’s real mother didn’t know how to care for him, the art is carefully done to show that the gorillas are more baffled than mean or careless.  The cautious approach of the new mother gorilla and Umande as they are introduced is portrayed in a touching way on the page as is the final connection of the two gorillas.

This book is sure to speak to adoptive families as well as fans of gorillas and zoos.  It is a great pick for story times on any of these subjects.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.