Books Help Kids Handle Grief and Loss

Books helps kids handle grief and loss which are inevitable parts of loving others. Books that both validate the depth of a child’s feelings and ease them over life’s rough patches can help children process their powerful emotions. Their world is small, their life experiences limited, and their life skills are just beginning. They experience emotions on a grand scale: elation, terror, delight, disgust, etc. When they perceive an imminent loss, fear crushes logic. By nurturing emotional literacy in our children, we strengthen them for the journey of life.

Cope love loss grief.wherever you are.51rmSaLK1rL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Before tackling the difficult stuff, read books which reassure children and build a firm foundation of security. Nancy Tillman, author of the  NY Times Bestselling On the Night You Were Born, created a wonderful book that would be a great choices: Wherever you Are My Love Will Find You

This sweet book reassures children that the love which connects family bridges time and distance. The delicate illustrations suit the gentle, dreamy tone well. Although it never mentions loss or death, it’s  message would indirectly reassure kids who have faced the loss of a relationship, whether through divorce, death, or adoption.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees have intimate knowledge of deep loss and benefit from frequent affirmations of love. This book can be interpreted as both a reinforcement of the love of their adoptive family and can lead to conversations about their birth parents as well. Adopted children have a permanent connection to and interest in their birth parents.  They may find comfort in imagining their birth parents thinking about them with a love that can bridge difficult circumstances, distance and time.

Even if they came to adoption because of abuse and neglect, they may find solace in imagining some measure of positive connection with their birth parents. As always, validate the children’s feelings; if they can only conjure heart-broken, hurt or angry feelings. Empathize with how sad that must be for them. Eventually, they may be able reach resolution or forgiveness. Allow them to determine if and when that will happen.

books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss.the way i feel.51YcXIprCeL._SX453_BO1,204,203,200_

Exuberant illustrations dance across the pages of  The Way I Feel  written and illustrated by Janan Cain. It walks young readers through several moods and captures the intensity of their wildest feelings. Text spirals, bends and wriggles across the page. Color reinforces the feelings being described., for example, brilliant reds and oranges for anger, blues and turquoise for sad,

The story describes kid-familiar emotions : an older sib’s jealousy, frustration, disappointment, etc. With respect and validation, it describes these feelings in ways that help kids discern the difference between one feeling and another. This helps kids develop emotional literacy– the ability to accurately recognize, clearly express how they feel and then decide how to handle them. This is a vital life skill.

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Adoption-attuned Lens I began this review by stating: the proverbial Circle of Life inevitably links love, loss and grief. This is particularly true for adoptees whose lives have been uprooted from one family and grafted into another. Adoption requires kids to wrestle with very complex emotions. Having a broad vocabulary of emotions assists them in parsing out this patchwork quilt of feelings, relationships, losses and gains.

Reading a book about feelings helps convince kids that it is a permitted and welcome topic. Conversations can natural evolve from more general things to adoption-specific thoughts and experiences.

books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss. Ida Always. 51Aufwhsr8L._SY453_BO1,204,203,200_Ida, Always by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is a sweet, two-hankie picture book that depicts how loved one’s imprint in our world and on our hearts remains after they die. It deals with death that acknowledges the sadness and grief and celebrates life and relationships.

A pleasure for eye, ear and heart, Ida, Always  focuses on sound to capture the loving relationship of two polar bears, the bustling zoo where they live and the vibrant city which surrounds them. (“Keys clicked and shoes clacked … buses groan,; trucks rumble …children laugh.” This encapsulates the theme: even when the people and places we love are out of sight, the sounds that surround us hold the audio track of precious memories.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees may find solace in a book like this because it invites them to intentionally search for and preserve good memories about relationships they have lost. Even when they lack actual memories, parents can help them imagine moments that his birth parents “might” have shared with them. Even kids with trauma histories are viscerally connected to their birth parents. They might benefit from finding some positive recollections, (Not to cancel out or invalidate any trauma or the reality of hurtful histories but as the first step to finding a way to heal any damage.)


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The multi-award-winning book Pancakes with Papa by Dena Albergo Jason and illustrated by Rainer M. Osinger directly addresses a child’s loss of a grandparent. Johnny’s grandparents live with his family. They spend time together and have shared many memory-making moments. So, when his beloved Papa dies, his death leaves a large hole in Johnny’s life. His Nana brings Johnny around the house. She helps Johnny identify smells, sounds and memories of their time together. He learns to use these memories to trigger warm feelings that help ease his grief.

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Adoption-attuned Lens While everyone needs help coping with loss and grief, adoptees have a heavier load to shoulder than most kids their age. Whether they were adopted as infants or older, children may benefit from finding ways to see, hear, and smell the connection of lost relationships. Especially for adoptees with little information in their files, the exercise may rely more on supposition than fact. nonetheless, kids may find comfort in remembering or imagining magical, loving moments with people from their pre-adoptive lives.

My Heart Is Like A Zoo? — Talk About Love

My Heart Is Like A Zoo How would you reply if you asked yourself, “What is your heart like?” What would you predict your child might reply? My Heart Is Like A Zoo written and illustrated by Michael Hall offers a delightful variety of answers to this question. In an additional and entertaining surprise, the illustrations are made of different configurations of hearts– large and small, complete and incomplete. What a wonderful demonstration of creativity!

Kids will giggle and smile their way through this sweet, silly book. Ear-catching rhyme and unexpected descriptions add dimensions of fun. For example, “Silly as a seal/ rugged as a moose/ happy as a herd of hippos drinking apple juice.” Who knew hippos love apple juice? Or how quiet a caterpillar can be when “wearing knitted socks”?  Casey read this book with her second grade class; they enjoyed it tremendously, then created their own zoo-heart animals as metaphors for their own emotions. Five Stars

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AQ Lens:  A fun book like this one makes it easy to talk about upbeat feelings and lays important groundwork for more difficult conversations. Because of the complexities of adoption, adopted children benefit from having a broad vocabulary for describing and identifying their feelings. This helps them discuss their emotions as well as to understand these emotions.  The uniqueness of the illustrations also encourage creativity and showcases the benefit of not thinking/being exactly like everyone else.

One Love.MarleyValentine’s day brings thoughts of love. Add a sprinkle of multiculturalism to your celebrations with the charming One Love by Cedella Marley, daughter of the Reggae artist, Bob Marley. Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton enliven the text, based on his song, “One Love.” Beautiful multi-media pictures will brighten the reader’s day.  The mood of the story is upbeat and positive and reinforces the idea that we are all part of the community of earth, that we all can choose to work, laugh and love together. Five stars

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 This is not an “issues” book, rather it shows people engaging in ordinary tasks, living their normal daily activities. This sweet book easily introduces the idea that we need not look the same in order to be friends, neighbors or family. It depicts people of different races happily playing and working together. People of many shades of color appear throughout the story. Several images of Bob Marley are tucked into the illustrations. Hunting for them  would be fun. Plus, it would be an easy segue to a conversation about birth parents–how they are “present” in a child in ways both subtle and obvious.

 

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Valentine’s Day brings kisses to mind.  A wonderful book that looks at kisses in a unique way is Amy Krouse  Rosenthal’s gem, Plant A Kiss.  Illustrated brilliantly by Peter H. Reynolds, the very spare text literally sparkles and matches the mood of the story perfectly. Have you ever wondered what might happen if you planted a kiss? No? Well, you are in for a delight when you share this book with your special child. Before you begin, ask your little one to predict what might happen if he or she planted a kiss. The question is sure to fire up their imaginations. It will also open a window into the way they think and feel which helps parents know and understand their children better.  Five stars

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 This story line can serve as a wonderful conversation starter. Ask kids what else they might “plant.” Then, have them predict what might happen. Compare the “harvest” of each emotion. Conversations like these can be a wonderful gateway to important conversations about deeply held adoption-related thoughts and feelings. You might be surprised by what your child reveals. This creates a great chance to validate their feelings, clarify confusion and address their worries and concerns.

All Kinds of Children.61bmJzGzaVL._SY406_BO1,204,203,200_A title like All Kinds of Children sets our expectations of inclusivity and multicultural characters and  content. This book delivers on all accounts as it explores “fascinating differences” as well as “all they have in common with other boys and girls.” Written by Norma Simon and deftly illustrated by Diane Paterson, the duo presents similarities and differences in foods, housing, families, playtime activities and work. Many ethnicities and races are depicted although no interracial families are shown which is unfortunate. Still this book deserves a spot on the family library shelf. Five stars.

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magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: The biggest plus of this book is the way that it depicts the myriad ways in which everyone is both alike and dissimilar. Since many adoptees have a wrestle with the process of blending their identities from a mixture of both nature and nurture, this book opens an easy entry into talking about the many ways in which they are similar to each family as well as the multiple ways in which they differ. A book like All Kinds of Children accomplishes this task without judgment and thus normalizes the conversation.

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, February 18th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current month is Love. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • February 18th linkups: Love. Let’s continue to spread our love of diverse books by sharing diverse books about love, families, and relationships.
  • March 4th and 18th: Changing Seasons. As we eagerly await the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern, let’s share favorite books and resources on the seasons.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most-clicked post from last time was Marjorie’s review of IBBY Review: Roses Are Blue by Sally Murphy and Gabriel Evans on Mirrors Windows Doors. This novel in verse shares the struggles of a young girl trying to process her new life after her mother is severely injured in a car accident.

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

Now more than ever, we need to share and promote books by and about Muslims, and a great place to start is Kitaab World‘s new series on Countering Islamophobia through Stories. The first entry is a book list featuring Muslim Kids as Heroes. I am also delighted to welcome Gauri, CEO and co-founder of Kitaab World, as a co-host!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Katie @ The Logonauts   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestCarolina @ La Clase de Sra. DuFault   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Jane @ Rain City Librarian   Blog / Twitter / Instagram

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books   Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Hosts for February

Gauri @ Kitaab World   an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries   Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

Our Pinterest board highlights a wide range of amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

The Gift of Waiting

wait   Adoptive parents know the frustration of waiting for something that has become nearly all-consuming. Waiting allowed us time to prepare emotionally, physically and financially, to become educated for parenting in general as well as  for the unique demands of adoptive parenting in particular.

Once the long-awaited placement referral happens we immerse ourselves in the day-to-day hubbub of family life. As we struggle to balance the demands of family, work, community and church, time becomes singularly precious. We forget how hard it was/is to wait.

One of the gifts our children provide is the opportunity to see the beauty in the ordinary, the miraculous in the mundane. Children operate in the present moment. They want to enjoy it before they race to the next activity on our parental agenda. Tardiness–an adult construct–is irrelevant to them.

Wait by Antoinette Portis offers a gentle invitation to stop and smell the proverbial roses. At the child’s insistence, they pause. The mom gets a chance to appreciate what she would otherwise blindly bypass as she bustles along. Young readers will enjoy scrutinizing the illustrations for hidden treasures. Parents will be reminded to appreciate the world around us but also the enthusiasm and wonder which our children exude. It is a treat to reconnect to that part of ourselves.

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AQ LensAdopted children bear an additional “waiting” burden compared to their non-adopted peers. They must figure out when and how they will incorporate their biological connections into their lives. Depending upon the degree of openness of their adoption, this task may exist more in the present than in the future. But, to a degree, the full flowering of their triangulated family ties will not come until adulthood. It is beneficial to our children and ourselves to develop the ability to be both full of anticipation and at peace with waiting.

In the meantime, we can remain mindful of the challenge and the gift of waiting. Sometimes it is we who must wait and sometimes it is our children!

 

Zen Ties written and illustrated by  John J. Muth introduces the reader to a  panda aptly named Still Water. A gentle giant, Still Water “runs deep and calm” and makes a reassuring, if unexpected friend. His words are wise and often spoken in haiku form.

Muth write with subtle humor and uses word play to add layers to his stories, e.g., when Still Water welcomes his nephew at the train station, he calls out, “Hi, Koo!” Still Water introduces Koo to the neighborhood children and engages them in imaginative play. When one confesses that he’s anxious about an upcoming spelling bee, the bear provides the best distraction:  helping out the neighborhood grump, Miss Whitaker.

Time passes quickly. Instead of focusing on his worries, Michael and the other children immerse themselves in drawing, cooking and otherwise cheering up Mrs. Whitaker. They find satisfaction in their accomplishments. In the process she becomes a true friend who then helps Michael prepare for the spelling bee.

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AQ LensAdoptees shoulder a lot of questions about what it means to walk through life as an adoptee. They wait to assemble the complete picture as parents dole out pieces of their “story” in age appropriate increments.

There is great value in helping kids cope with the mystery and challenge of this task by nurturing their sense of capability and meaning. Just like Koo encouraged the children to engage with their neighbor, parents can encourage their child’s willingness to “help.” Sometimes this assistance increases the work instead of lessening it. However, it is by doing that children learn and experience the pleasure of contributing to the family.

The challenge for parents is to “wait” for their children’s learning curves to work through the inept stage until they arrive at the point where their efforts actually.  Encouraging this burgeoning capability benefits everyone, Admittedly, it isn’t easy for parent or child to wait until mastery has replaced the struggling beginner stage.

 

Waiting is an early picture book written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. A variety of toys rest on a windowsill. Each awaits something different. As the story unfolds, each finally receives their wish. While they wait they spend their time observing the world around them. During that period of waiting, they appreciate many wonderful things. The pastel illustrations drawn with colored pencils and watercolor exude a dreamy quality that strike a complimentary note to the text.

Young readers will enjoy perusing the illustrations for elements that might normally go unnoticed. Each of the toys finds something to appreciate. Their eclectic interests help children to see and value things that might not immediately come to their mind. As with the other two books reviewed in this post, Waiting depicts a strategy that concentrates on appreciating the present even while anticipating the events of the future.

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AQ Lens: Beyond the other insights offered by the two previous books, Waiting includes a unique story thread: one of the toys is a Russian nesting-type doll in the shape of a cat. The reader is asked to predict what the cat is awaiting. Nothing seems obvious. She does not appear to be waiting for any of the same things as the other toys. Finally, the illustration reveals the little cats inside. This offers an easy segue to talk about pregnancy, birth and adoption and how both the expectant mother and the adoptive parents spent their time waiting for the child to arrive. Always allow your child’s maturity and comfort level to guide your conversation. Create an atmosphere of approachability , openness and acceptance.

 

 

Jack & Emma’s Adoption Journey

Jack & Emma's Adoptee JourneySince November is National Adoption Month, I wanted to highlight a book that speaks about adoption through the adoptee’s personal lens. Jack & Emma’s Adoption Journey does just that. It is a short yet powerful book. Written by Pam Kroskie, an adult adoptee, the story focuses on the thoughts and feelings of Jack and Emma. The text on each page is accompanied by an author’s note addressed to the adoptive parent. This side bar clarifies the moment/issue for the parent and shines light on Jack and Emma’s action or thought being depicted on the page.


magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)Although this book is brief, it touches on some important adoptee issues, e.g., identity questions, yearning to fit in, anxiety, fear of rejection, wondering about birth parents, ambivalent feelings about birthdays, self blame, anger  and longing to understand biological ancestry. All of these thoughts are common to adoptees. Mentioning them in the story, helps to normalize their thought processes and opens the door to important family conversations in which parents can listen, validate and support their child’s feelings and concerns. Jack and Emma’s Adoptee Journey would be an excellent addition to the family adoption library.

When parents share such conversations, they reassure their children that their love is unconditional and does not require kids to choose between their two families. It affirms that each is an integral and treasured part of the child, and by extension to the entire family.

Pam KroskiePam Kroskie served as the past President of the American Adoption Congress, is a Congressional Angel in Adoption Award Winner, the current president of H.E.A.R. (Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records,) and for many years has raised her voice on behalf of adoptees. She hosts AAC Adoption News and Views on Blog Talk Radio.

The Adoption Summit Experience 2015: Come Climb With Us, An On-line Summit

This post is reprinted from the blog which I wrote for the Long Island Adoption Support Group last week.

Adoption Summit

As an adoptive parent, I know what it is like to feel challenged by the unique and complicated demands of life as an adoptive family. As an adoption coach, I know how other families struggle to locate resources that understand adoption and are attuned to the needs of child and parents–both adoptive and birth parents. Living as an adoptive family has often felt like a trek up the steep slopes of Mt. Everest. I suspect other adoptive families experience similar moments of overwhelm and confusion.

Imagine finding and talking with a knowledgeable guide who’s also walked that path and survived. Imagine feeling heard, understood and supported, with empathy not judgment. Imagine being able to know what will best serve your child, yourself, your partner, and, your child’s birth parents. How might that kind of unified resource help your family? Imagine no more.

On Nov. 10-12, 2015 and Nov. 17, 2015 a collaboration of adult adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents and adoption professional join together to present “The Adoption Summit Experience.” This free, on-line summit is unique as the three individual perspectives join forces to become one voice—a voice that speaks with respect and compassion for all individuals involved in an option.

 

Our goal is to create an opportunity for anyone, anywhere who is interested in adoption to lean in and listen to conversations from different perspectives,” says Parsons, creator of the event. “Every presenter volunteers their time and energy to make adoption better in some way. These are people who have transformed their relinquishment and adoption challenges into action for positive change. This event is a first of its kind.”

—LeAnne Parsons

adoption both and.6 Summit presenters will address adoption from all “sides” and will share the insights and learnings that we have acquired along the way.  We want to take our hard-won wisdom and infuse it with purpose to create a more collaborative and mutually supportive understanding of adoption. All presenters are directly living adoption either as first parents, adoptees or adoptive parents.

As listeners hear the “other” viewpoints, we hope to awaken empathy and understanding of how we are inextricably and permanently interconnected. Instead of compartmentalizing adoption into adoptee issues, birth parent issues and adoptive parent issues, we accept this interconnectivity as the reality of adoption. By understanding the needs of each part of the adoption triad, we can work together to make adoption better for all involved.

Are you in an open adoption, trying to determine how to make it work? Do you wish you knew how to enjoy and balance your happiness against a backdrop of the grief and loss of your child’s birth parents? Do you wonder how to handle your own triggers? Do you ever wish you could chat with several birth mothers to ask them questions to help you relate better with “your” birth mother/s? Then this summit is for you!

Are you struggling to handle the challenges of adoption and yearn to speak with parents who have “survived” similar events and whose family remained firmly attached and thrived? Do you wish you knew alternative parenting strategies—ones tested by other adoptive families? Then this summit is for you!

L is for LoveAre you looking for guidance on good resources? How do you evaluate which therapists, coaches, social workers, etc. understand adoption and are properly prepared to guide you? Do you know which books truly serve your family and which perpetuate outdated social myths? Then this summit is for you!

Imagine learning from adult adoptees what worked, didn’t work or what they wished their parents had done for them. How might that knowledge help you be a better parent to your child?

Have you ever wished you could talk honestly about your family struggles with no fear of judgment? Imagine confiding in peers who understand the joy, frustration, fear and commitment that adoptees face? Then this summit is for you

Watch this welcome video from Adoption Summit sponsor and adult adoptee, LeAnne Parsons as she invites you to “Come Climb with Us” at the free, on-line adoption summit. All who are interested in adoption are welcome and urged to participate. Register today: http://www.adoptionsummitexperience.com/register

 

Your Family’s Adoption Library.v8.10.07.2015Gayle’s presentation at the summit will focus on books as an ideal resource for introducing and sustaining healthy adoption conversations both within and beyond the family. It will include three bibliographies: one for children, one for parents and one of books written by adult adoptees.

Gayle is a co-founder of GIFT Family Services which provides adoption support before, during and after adoption, an adoption coach, adoptive parent, former foster parent and co-author of the multi-award-winning, “ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book.” She blogs regularly at “Growing Intentional Families together” She also writes an Adoption-attuned blog titled, “Writing to Connect” which reviews books through a High AQ lens. While some are specifically about adoption, most are not. She strives to help parents notice teachable moments in whatever books they share with their children.

http://www.adoptionsummitexperience.com/register

Watch this welcome video from Adoption Summit sponsor and adult adoptee, LeAnne Parsons as she invites you to “Come Climb with Us” at the free, on-line adoption summit. All who are interested in adoption are welcome and urged to participate.

A Taste of Asia: Four Books That Expand Children’s Multiculturalism

The Magic BrushThe Magic Brush: A Story of Love, Family, and Chinese Characters has much to offer readers with an interest in diversity. (That includes all of us, right?) Written by Kat Yeh, (an Asian-American,) and illustrated by Huy Voun Lee (who was born in Cambodia) whose real-life experiences as Asian Americans infuses the story with authenticity.

The illustrations enrich the story effectively, e.g., when Grandfather stands in his doorway and wiggles his finger to invite Jasmine to enter. Along with her, the reader discovers a space infused with Asian elements: furniture, wall hanging, drawing table etc.

But the story  also captures a universal moment, of a grandparent passing on his wisdom, engaging his granddaughter in both the magical and factual elements of their culture. Huy Voun Lee skillfullly inserts Chinese characters so they both embellish the illustration and offer a chance to learn the characters. The book includes a pronunciation guide and a very brief  summary of Chinese art as well as explanations of the food treats described in the story.

Beyond the fascinating and valuable peek at Chinese culture, Kat Yeh relates a universal story of family connections.

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New ClothesOur next title offers a peek into Korean culture. Written and illustrated by Hyun-joo Bao, New Clothes for New Year’s Day  begins with a girl gazing from an open window. A breeze billows invitingly, beckoning the reader to step beyond it and explore the many ways the New Year is welcomed in Korea.

The story unfolds through the experiences of this small girl as she completes the complicated ritual of dressing for New Year’s Day in traditional Korean garb. Bright illustrations radiate energy as the tiny child struggles to don each item of her outfit. As she works with great care, ensuring that she places each element correctly, the reader observes her respectfulness for the traditions as evidenced in her dedication to detail. “It’s not easy…,” she says.

As in The Magic Brush: the artwork overflows with detail. This time we enjoy the beauty of Korean furnishings, style, colors and patterns. End matter includes information about how the holiday is observed, background about the traditional costume and the meaning behind it. A feast for the eyes, and an enjoyable venture into another culture.

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Zen ShortsAs a Caldecott Honor Book, Zen Shorts delivers breathtaking illustrations. This story too, begins with a child at a doorway. A boy tries desperately to capture his older brother’s attention. He yells through the closed door, “There’s a bear outside!” Brother remains skeptical and the door remains shut. Karl relates a play-by-play of the bear’s antics. Finally, his brother Michael opens the door, the siblings’ adventure begins.

They encounter Stillwater, a philosophizing panda bear who is armed with gentle Zen wisdom and an arsenal of anecdotes. A charming story that uses metaphors to make important points which are valuable for all –children as well as grown ups.

Zen Shorts is another double-barreled success both visually and textually satisfying that shows us “… how Addy, Michael,Karl–and Stillwater–became friends.” This lesson in sibling harmony is a  welcome one.

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LIVING IN CINAWritten by Carol P. Roman, a multi-award-winning author, If You Were Me and Lived in China is part of a series of non-fiction books which explore life in other countries through a child’s eyes. The book visits some of the cultural landmarks, introduces some vocabulary and, describes cultural traditions–ancient and modern.

An excellent first introduction to China. Also includes a pronunciation guide. Illustrated by Kelsea Wierenga.

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AQ Lens: Beyond the obvious benefits of putting children in touch with their cultural roots, by their very existence these books send a message that these traditions are worth noting, following and showcasing. It is an easy step to carrying the same sense of value to a child’s roots. Coming from another culture makes one “different.” But it isn’t something to hide; it is something to share and honor. Readers will notice the effort and determination which the main characters demonstrate.  Skills and capabilities grow out of hard work. This is a great message for them to absorb!

These books also demonstrate the universality of common daily activities: dressing, enjoying time with grandparents, preparing meals, celebrating holidays. As the reader follows the main characters through the narrative, children can note the value of self reliance, connection to family and of being part of a history–personal, familial as well as cultural. Children will enjoy learning about other cultures, whether it is part of their history or not. By expanding our children’s exposure to a variety of cultures and traditions, we better prepare them for life in this increasingly interconnected world. It is important for us to prepare them for this global citizenship.

 

A Nest Is Noisy … Like A Family

A Nest Is NoisyFamilies come in such diverse variety. As adoptive families we search for opportunities to highlight this range of difference in a way that equates with “interesting” instead of odd or abnormal.  Diana Hutts Aston’s fascinating book, A Nest Is Noisy delves into the natural world to depict some of the many wonderful ways that animals prepare to house and protect their young. Illustrated with exquisite detail by Sylvia Long, the book is a feast for the eyes as well as a smorgasbord of interesting information.

The illustrations add depth and interest. Children can spend a great deal of time studying them for hidden details. They’ll enjoy a game of “I Spy” if they are challenged to look for tiny details.  Readers will see the many commonalities as well as differences in how various animals prepare for parenthood. After reading the book, challenge your child to look for nests in his neighborhood.

Readers learn about nests: the biggest and smallest, nests built in trees and on the ground, constructed underground and created underwater. It features birds, fish, and snakes, bees, frogs and alligators, turtles, ants and platypuses. Kids will find a favorite among the crowd. They’ll enjoy learning about all the different ways animal parents prepare for the arrival of their offspring.

 The AQ* Lens: A Nest Is Noisy even features two varieties of birds that lay their eggs in a nest and then allow others to nurture and raise them. This offers a chance to segue into a discussion of how some animal parents are not able to nurture and raise their babies. Instead, these birds carefully choose a nest where their little ones will receive the care they need and deserve. The book identifies one nest as “adopted.”

Tread lightly, if you choose to connect this thread to human parents making an adoption plan.  (It is an easy tack to take.) Just remember to speak with respect and empathy for birthparents. Highlight the care with which they identified a new “nest” for their child. Explain that adult reasons and adult shortcomings necessitated an adoption. Make it clear that it was not the baby’s fault or due to any shortcomings on the child’s part. Ask your child what he thinks the animal might be feeling. (This may give you some insight to his own feelings about adoption loss.) Come from curiosity so that you allow them to express genuine feelings and not deliver what they think you want to hear.

A Nest Is Noisy is a beautiful book, chock full of information.I rate it as

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Wanting to Be Different

Dont want to be a frogChildren often complain that they don’t want to be: skinny or fat; tall or short; blonde or brunette; curly-haired or straight-haired; etc. Their lists can be lengthy and changeable.  They want to be anything else except themselves. Dev Petty’s picture book I Don’t Want To Be A Frog hilariously captures these universal feelings of frustration which all of us have—children and adults. The comical illustrations by Mike Boldt are eye-popping and full of hidden jokes for the adult reader. (This is a definite plus because I predict, children will request this book over and over.)

Imagine being Froggy—wet, slimy, and stuck eating bugs—lots of them. I mean seriously, pretty yucky, right? He yearns to be cute, cuddly and warm like a cat or a bunny. He’s even willing to settle for a pig or an owl. Mama frog patiently points out all the reasons why Froggy can’t be other than himself. But the most convincing argument comes from a surprising source: a very hungry wolf. Wolf savors the taste of rabbit, owl, pig and cat but turns up his nose at the thought of eating a slimy, wet bug-eating frog. Froggy is relieved—and safe. He celebrates by dining on his favorite treat a succulent fly!

It’s easy to appreciate the obvious message conveyed in I Don’t Want To Be A Frog: being yourself is the best choice. For adopted children this is an especially pointed lesson.  It offers a great talking point regarding the talents, inclinations and abilities which they received through their birth parents. Families can highlight and celebrate these differences as things of value.

Often we concentrate on identifying ways that our adopted children are like us. Commonality equates to connection. It is equally important, however, to notice, validate and encourage the differences which our children bring to the family. These add value, texture and variety and are an important part of them. These differences enrich our families; they do not diminish us. A Five Star read.

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Enjoying the Magic of Invention and Self-discovery

Rosie revereAndrea Beaty has created a spunky heroine in Rosie Revere, EngineerBehind the shrinking violet who fades into the background at school, Rosie is a visionary with big dreams of becoming a “great engineer” and the talent to match. She creates inventions from her vast collection of found “stuff.” Rosie Revere, Engineer does a fabulous job of capturing a young child’s creative delight and the immense pleasure they enjoy in sharing their creations with the people they love. (How many times have you heard a child chime, “Look what I made!” Remember their exuberance, their pride, their need to have your acknowledgement?)

As a young tot, Rosie proudly shares her inventions with family until the dreaded day that her uncle–gasp–laughs at her masterpiece. Rosie feels judged and belittled by his laughter. Despite Uncle’s reassurances to the contrary, she believes he’s laughing at her. In typical child-fashion, she generalizes from this one experience, is convinced she lacks talent, and is devastated. Fortunately, her drive to create is untamed but she decides not to share her inventions anymore.

“After that day [Rosie] kept her dreams to herself.” She’s lost her spark and sits in her classroom “not daring to speak.” Rosie hides her creations  until her namesake, great-great aunt Rose appears on the scene.(Adults will recognize her as an echo of Rosie the Riveter a cultural icon of World War II fame.) The two are kindred spirits. The elderly aunt confesses that she has an unfulfilled dream: to fly. Her aunt’s admission rekindles Rosie’s courage and confidence in her ingenious inventions. Although Rosie fears failure, she embraces the challenge and sets out to create a flying contraption that will fulfill her aunt’s dreams.

Alas, her zany cheese-copter crashes. Just like the dreaded uncle, great-great aunt Rose laughs at Rosie’s designs but with joy not judgment. “You did it! Hooray! It’s the perfect first try! This great flop is over. It is time for the next!” Rosie learns to be proud of her failures, to round up her courage and keep trying until success is achieved.

David Roberts’ quirky illustrations are charming and so expressive. Each offers many discussion points to be mined. As I read this through an AQ* (adoption-attuned) lens, this story offers many wonderful nuggets. Themes that infuse the story include: diversity, “shyness’, recycling, ingenuity, viewing the world with an artist/inventor’s eye, women as capable, failing forward teamwork, confidence, resilience, persistence, being true to oneself, and owning one’s unique gifts. Wow! Jam packed, fun and visually delightful, this story offers an easy window to discussions about hidden talents and how they may have a genetic origin. This offers a natural segue to positive mention of birth parents and how biology helps to shape who we are.

I highly recommend this book. it is a five star gem.

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12 Benefits of an Adoption Lifebook

Portrait of pretty mixed race girl playing super heroLast week we discussed how books can be a useful tool for the adoptive family. This week I’d like to examine a particular kind of book that many of you may be unfamiliar with: the lifebook.

This is a unique and completely personal book that tells the story of your child’s life from the beginning. It includes the details from his birth and information about events before he was born.

Beth O’Malley, M.Ed, an adoptee, adoptive parent and adoption social worker,  wrote “Lifebooks: Creating a treasure for Your Adoptive Child,” one of the best “how to” books on creating lifebooks. Their value to an adopted child can be huge. Taking the time to gather, save and record information, memorabilia, and photographs of the important people, places and events of a child’s life clearly conveys a vital message: his life story is valuable, worth remembering and worth retelling. A lifebook says, “Your story begins before adoption and because we love you, we value the history of your life from the beginning. We do not expect or require you to wipe the slate clean in order to embrace our joint life.”

Without these life-details, adopted kids report feeling rootless, at sea, hatched or alien. When parents capture the information and save it, they provide an affirmation and a tool that helps a child piece together their identity. Even in situations where almost no information exists, it is still possible and worthwhile to create a functional lifebook. Beth provides templates that will guide you through the process. She advises making it a family project. Here are some of the top reasons why your child deserves a lifebook.

1. Ground child in her history & beginnings Like all human beings, every adoptee was born, has a birth mother and birth father. Some adoptees were adopted at birth while others experienced lengthy intervals. Regardless of the amount of intervening time, every experience she faced and every person that walked through her life is an important element in her history.

2. Testimony to her history Beth O’Malley states that a lifebook“ honors every minute of … children’s lives.” It affirms their existence and allows parent and child to imagine being there together, celebrating her birth. It acknowledges the events that occurred in the child’s life and helps a child see what they faced, experienced and in some cases “survived.”

3. Physical tool A book is a neutral tool that allows a child to initiate adoption conversations. It gives her something tangible to frame her story and provides structure to her narrative.

4. Creates a normalizing effect Lifebooks document her life journey and identify ways in which she is just like other kids.

5. Provides Constancy and security The lifebook creates a permanent repository of children’s lives. Therapists and parents report that kids refer to it throughout their lives—even into adulthood.

6. Affirms the importance of her life from birth onward Asserts that her story deserves recording, repeating and revisiting. Intuitively, a child knows it takes time and effort to create a lifebook. At some level, a child infers that this means “she is  worth it.”

7. Addresses difficult experiences Affirms the child’s survival of any difficult (sometimes horrific) circumstances and reiterates that the child is blameless for the events that led to his adoption. This helps a child to see himself as the hero of his own life.

8. Eliminates the temptation to “protect” a child from the tough facts of her life Information should always be shared in age-appropriate ways; tough stuff should not be withheld from a child. Secrecy generates shame and eventually secrets come to life. This revelation inevitably damages the trust relationship“Unfortunately such well-meaning avoidance … leaves the child alone with his fantasies … and these are often more frightening, self-blaming and damaging than the actual facts.” Instead of hiding information, lifebooks allow parents (sometimes with the partnership of a therapist of social worker) to share it while being supported in the family.

9. Opens adoption conversations between child and parent Lifebooks provide a concrete place to start a conversation. A child can choose to read from the part of the book that connects with his current need.

10. Establishes a truth base which builds trust. Neither child nor parent has to put on a mask and pretend that adoption is loss and pain free or that certain events did not occur. This builds the family relationship on truth and encourages genuine connection.

11. Tracks the facts of her history and validates the emotions connected with them Lifebooks operate as a neutral container of the child’s life story line.

12. Builds foundation for attachment When you value my history, recognize my journey through difficulty and show I’m a survivor, it establishes that parents are strong enough to know the my story, accept it and love me–the real child who lived that story.