Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adoption Books: What's the Message?

By Fran Cronin for Adopt-a-tude

Not Your Average Bedtime Story


My fifteen-year-old daughter has banished me from her room. She’s made it clear we are long past reading bedtime stories together. But I still revel in the occasional snuggle with my twelve-year-old son, and I love sinking into a good children’s story—especially if the message is right.

For parents of adopted children, messaging is key when choosing books to read or share, whether a child is a preschooler or near adolescence. The story needs to feel true, the circumstances familiar, and the emotional sensibility realistic.

But somehow these requirements are tough to fill. Few books resonate with my son’s story as a Russian adoptee. How many overly sunny stories about the perfect rainbow family can you read? And he is definitely not a little girl adopted from Asia who took a long plane ride to get here.

On a recent day this fall, I decided to ask a local librarian for advice. At the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library, Amanda Gazin, senior children’s librarian, efficiently rattled off almost a dozen titles about adoption. The result was a broad overview of what the genre offers.

Not surprisingly, far more books have been published for preschoolers. After reading many of those on Gazin’s list, however, I’d say the results are mixed...



Editor's Note: Fran's piece appears in the December 2010 issue of Talking Writing, in which the theme is children's books. The issue includes references to more than a hundred children's books, multiple author interviews, and cartoon panels from the graphic novels American Born Chinese and City of Spies.

Fran and I think Adopt-a-tude readers will find this TW issue of particular interest. There are lots of discussions about identity, the development of children's imagination, even one middle-school author calling for "no more orphans!" in young adult books. Happy reading—Martha Nichols