Tag: adoption

Home at Last by Vera B. Williams


Home at Last by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka (InfoSoup)

Lester is adopted by Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert, who pick him up with their dog Wincka once the adoption is formalized. They head home, put Lester’s new clothes away. But when Daddy Albert tries to put Lester’s suitcase in the attic, Lester shows them that it is full of his action figures and insists that they have to stay right in the suitcase in his room. Lester is happy during the day, playing with his toys and spending time with his new fathers. At night though, he packs up his suitcase and stands near his fathers’ bed. This happens night after night, despite cocoa and toast, singing songs, and explanations that Lester is safe. Finally, one of the fathers loses his temper with the situation and then Lester really opens up about what he is worried about. A solution to the problem is found by Wincka, the dog, who was listening to Lester’s story too.

This was the book that Williams was working on when she died. Raschka had been involved from the beginning with the book and completed the vision that Williams had shared with him. Williams captures the deep-seated fear that adopted children can have, the understanding at one level of newfound family love but also the change that comes at night where fears become larger. Williams also shows two loving gay men, both delighted to be fathers and each different from the other. The two of them together parent Lester with kindness and concern and deep love.

Raschka finished the book, basing his art on sketches by Williams. His large colorful illustrations have a loose feel that ranges across the page, capturing both the mayhem of a family short on sleep but also the warmth of that family too. His watercolors convey deep emotions from the frustrations of sleepless nights to the power of coming together afterwards. All is beautifully shown on the page.

A tribute to adoptive families, LGBT couples who adopt and the importance of love and patience, this picture book is a grand finale to the many books by Williams. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.



Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmers Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah (InfoSoup)

Dara knows that she is a star. She can make all of the facial expressions in her favorite teen movies, has huge posters of her two favorite actors on her bedroom walls, and has lots of imaginary conversations with them as she dreams of her future in Hollywood. Her first step to stardom is landing the lead in the school production of The Sound of Music, and she just knows that her name is going to be called. But then it isn’t. Dara starts to wonder if it’s about the color of her skin, since she knows she’s an amazing actress. Dara was adopted from Cambodia. Then she notices that others with different skin colors are in the cast. The teacher offers her the role of stage manager, but Dara won’t agree to that. The teacher also invites her to join her acting classes, but Dara knows she doesn’t need them. As Dara slowly realizes that she may have a lot to learn after all, readers become convinced that Dara may just be the star she always thought she was.

Shevah has created in Dara a character who is both repulsive and compelling. Dara is unthinking, rather vain and unable to listen at the beginning of the book. Wisely, Shevah frames the book as looking into the past and Dara knowing that she wasn’t a very nice person back then. This gives readers permission to dislike Dara and yet also enjoy her humor, drive and sparkle. It also makes Dara’s deep changes all the more believable. Various characters also help Dara see herself anew, including her siblings, her parents and her best friend. This is done in many different ways from overt to subtle and is a skillful way to create change in a character.

The voice throughout the book is entirely Dara’s. The fonts change with Dara’s emphasis on various words, showing the passion and emotions behind them. The book design is fresh and friendly, having designs around the page edges and illustrations that break up the text a bit.

A strong and funny protagonist becomes much more self-aware in this gorgeous novel. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo (InfoSoup)

When a puppy comes to live with his new cat mother, he is scared. But his mother reassures him. He tries to give himself stripes so he looks more like her, but she says there is no need to change at all. She likes that they are different and the puppy does too. His new mom takes care of him and plays with him. Not all days are perfect, but his mother tells him that they can do better next time and that it is OK. This is a portrait of a newly formed family finding their way together.

Galindo captures the emotions of a newly adopted child in this picture book. She tells the story with a frank simplicity that really works, not trying to explain away the emotions but allowing them to show in their messiness as a reassurance that such emotions will not undo a new adoption. Galindo also shows the connection building and love that an adoptive family feels. Her decision to use a single parent is one that is not always seen in picture books about adoption.

The art is very effective. Large on the page, it is done in a limited palette of oranges, yellows and grays. The differences between cat mother and dog child are beautifully clear and the part where the puppy paints stripes on himself is a visual reminder of the desire to be a solid family unit. Just the use of a dog and cat as the characters was a brilliant choice. It is clear to children that they are very different and could even have points of view that are opposites.

A simple and strong new picture book about adoption from the child’s point of view. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.


Elliot by Julie Pearson

Elliot by Julie Pearson

Elliot by Julie Pearson, illustrated by Manon Gauthier (InfoSoup)

Elliot was a little boy whose parents loved him very much. But there was a problem, when Elliot cried his parents did not understand why and when he yelled they did not know what to do. So one day a social worked named Thomas came and Elliot was taken to a new family with a new mother and father. It was different there and Elliot’s new family understood when he was hungry, when he was upset and when he needed attention. Elliot still got to see his parents sometimes too and they had a lot of fun together. His parents did try to care for him once again, but they still did not understand what he needed so he got moved to another family who could respond to his needs. Finally, Elliot came to a family where they wanted him to stay forever. They understood his needs even more deeply than any other family had and said things like “I love you forever, forever.”

This book is so very important. It is a book about the foster care system and one that is so intensely honest that it can be hard to read at times. Pearson manages to not make Elliot’s parents bad at all, keeping their neglect of Elliot vague enough to fit the experiences of many children. That also keeps the book appropriate for the youngest listeners. At the same time, Pearson shows the way children are moved from home to home, the way that they can go back to their parents, and the ability to finally find a permanent home where they are loved and cared for. The moment where parents finally use the word “love” with Elliot is so powerful because readers until that moment will not have realized that he had not been told it before. It’s a moment of realization that stings the heart.

Gauthier’s illustrations are done in cut paper collage. The colors are muted and quiet, creams and tans with lines on them. The background colors change slightly with the various families that Elliot lives with, but they are always muted. I appreciated this subtlety in the colors that supports the quiet and undramatic feel of the entire book.

Honest and vital, this picture book fills a huge gap in children’s books with its depiction of the foster system for small children. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Pajama Press and Myrick Marketing & Media.


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.