Since my brother adopted a baby girl last year, I have been particularly aware of books that feature adoption. It becomes obvious how marginalized these families can be in kids’ literature especially if the adopted child is of another race. It’s also difficult to find books on adoption that feel right for any particular family’s experience, because children come into families in so many different ways. Some adoptions involve trips to China, some involve a surprise phone call, some involve parents working as a team with the expectant mother, and so many more. Then add in the assumption in ninety-five percent of children’s books in general that all members of the family are from the same race, or that all families involve a mom and a dad. You can see how difficult it is to find a book that reflects any one adoption experience.
Well, I think I’ve found that book. It’s a new book by Todd Parr, who seems to have made his life’s work expanding our vision of what a family looks like. With bright colors oh such bright colors and simple words, the Parr books bring the notions of all sorts of families together. With regard to race, his play with colors becomes a bonus. The family might be parents with bright yellow skin and a blue-toned baby. Red and purple may get together. Yellow and brown. The variety of colors used for the people make it more of an analogy of the differences than a specific match-up. While there are some people with more realistic skin tones like tan and brown, it’s hard to feel like anyone has been left out when you’re served up such variety.
We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families sets the tone for acceptance and personalization with this author’s note: “This book is meant to be read with someone you love. Every family is different, so feel free to change the pronouns in this text to fit your family.” The book proceeds with a picture of the child and his/her need, and a picture of the adult and the need he/she could fill. The next two-page spread shows the family together and how they all fit together. All sorts of families are represented, but the way the book is written allows the reader to make his/her own interpretation. Certainly, you can make the guess that the two men in one picture are adopting a baby together. You could also use that as a learning moment as to how many different famillies there are and how special that is. However, the text doesn’t say specifically “two daddies” or “two mommies,” which makes it more accessible to all readers.
As an example, and my favorite part because it looks a lot like my brother and my niece, is this section:
We belong together because...The illustrations show a little brown-skinned girl (or boy) dreaming of being a superhero, and an adult male with glasses in the kitchen making up healthy food. The two-page spread following shows them each with their own big birthday cake and a picture of the pair on the wall. It made me tear up. In fact, it’s making me tear up now writing about it. This book would be a fantastic gift for families of young adopted children. Frankly, it would be a wonderful book for all famiiles of young children to read together, to understand and appreciate the many ways families come together.
you needed someone to help you grow healthy and strong,
and I had help to give.
Now we can grow up together.
If you are interested in more information, the Institute for Adoption Information is a terrific organization that strives to promote understanding about adoption and offers a helpful guide on the subject for educators at this website.