105 Ways to Give a Book

We Belong Together: Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, a point that I had meant to cover at the beginning of the month before I experienced a crisis of “Who am I am and why am I blogging here?” But I couldn’t let this month pass without recognition.

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 TogetherWe 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...
you needed someone to help you grow healthy and strong,
and I had help to give.
Now we can grow up together.
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.

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.


Andromeda Jazmon said...

Great review! I have been wanting to get a look at this book. I am wondering if the first parents of adopted children are included in the illustrations or text? Is there a family that includes members of the adopted child's original family as part of their circle of important people? That's the kind of adoption/family book I am looking for...

MotherReader said...

I'd say not exactly, but there is a picture of two woman who could be - in theory - the birth mom and the adopting mom. Since the author never names the people in the picture by role, I think it opens up a lot of interpretation. Like the man and woman picture could be used as "look, there's your mom and Uncle Fred kissing you good night." Creativity is the key.

Anonymous said...

My oldest son arrived from Korea almost exactly 21 years ago this month. How did I manage to miss that November is National Adoption month?

Anyway, I can still remember the night they put him in our arms and we drove home--new parents and in love. I wish there had been as many lovely books about adoption when he was little as there are now.

This one looks lovely.

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great book. And another wonderful adoption book is a picture book titled THE THREE NAMES OF ME by Mary Cummings. It's told from the point of view of an upper elementary age child, who is trying to integrate the various aspects of who she is, represented by three names: one given her at the Chinese orphanage, one by her American parents, and a third that she imagines was whispered to her by her birth mother. It's not only powerful, but lyrical and lovely in both text and pictures, and is unusual in that it's about an older child's feelings about her long-ago adoption-- not just about how the parents wanted a child and how the baby came to them, etc.