Relationships Comfort across Time and Space

relationships-comfort-across--time-spaceThe transition of summer into autumn marks a twist of time that is familiar to all of us, young and old, student and graduate, parent and child. School bells ring across the country, marking the end of summer. Once again, children will leave their homes for the hubbub of school.

This separation excites some children. They race to rejoin friends whom they haven’t seen all summer. Other children, especially in the younger grades, feel angst, loneliness and, fear.

Change by its very nature, upends the status quo. It demands that we throw off the comfort of the familiar and, step through the open door into the possibility of “next.” Both scary and exciting, change is the gateway.

Emotions run high and we yearn to have witnesses to the events—whether it is to celebrate, encourage or, comfort. Joy shared is joy multiplied. Fear shared is fear halved. Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs offers an engaging metaphor that can reassure little ones that the connections that tie us to the people we love endures across distances of time and space. That they can be invisible witnesses to their lives. Whether their separation concerns focus on parents who are at the office, on the road, across the world—whatever the reason—their presence is constant. Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs shows how that affection can be seen and felt in myriad ways, rain or shine, night or day.

Reassure children that connections to people they love endures across distances of time & space. Click To Tweet

Author Susan Schaefer Bernardo and Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher have created a charming book that will uplift and reassure children. Adults who read the book will find a lovely way of describing the powerful emotions that connect them to the people in their lives. (It’s not just kids who experience the pangs of separation, adults do also.)

 Adoption-attuned Lens:  This story might easily trigger a conversation about the connection, longing and questions about birth parents that adoptees have. They may find reassurance in imagining these important people being present in the constants of sun- and moon-shine, raindrops and snowflakes, butterflies and rainbows, storms or changing seasons.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Kisses-Moon-Susan-Schaefer-Bernardo/dp/0971122814/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503846427&sr=1-1&keywords=Sun+Kisses%2C+Moon+hugs

Dragons Need Friends Too.

Dragons need friends-dragons-are-real-61pcxriyl9l-_sy498_bo1204203200_Dragons and dinosaurs fascinate children so they’re predisposed to love Dragons Are Real by Valerie Budayr and illustrated by Michael Welply. It delivers the full inside story on the fire-breathing beasts. Who knew dragons need friends and yearn to be a child’s BFF? Or that they crave sweets as much as any kid dreaming of Halloween? All those stories of treasure hoarding paint the wrong picture of the draco species. It’s just that sparkling things dazzle and things catch a dragon’s attention. In actuality, it’s not jewels they crave and hoard. It’s books. Lots and lots and lots of books.

My favorite newly discovered dragon-fact: they love to read. We’re kindred spirits!  I’ve taken the liberty of naming this special dragon: Draco Bibliophilium which loosely translates from the Latin as “Book Loving Dragon.”) He’s near and dear to my heart because I love books too. (Anyone who has visited my office would know. In fact, it looks like the illustrator used my office for an illustration study.)

Dragons Are Real seeks to clear up many misperceptions that identify dragons as evil, dangerous and, scary. The very idea that dragons yearn to capture hapless maidens is preposterous; they’re simply trying to be helpful and make a friend in the process. Now it is true that dragons breathe fire, but only when they want to be useful like toasting hot dogs or making s’mores. It can be very handy to have a friend with a built-in fuel source and an inclination to help out when needed. Turns out, that dragons are loyal and funny. Apparently they love poetry to an excess which can be a bit tedious. But don’t we all have our quirks and faults?

This story transforms a traditional “monster” figure from children’s folklore into a charming and desirable pal, one who loves to laugh and dance and recite poetry. I love that! By turning the myth upside down, which offers young readers a model for looking at the “monsters” in their own personal lives to reinterpret them in a way which enables them to cope. Since dragons are masters of camouflage, they can be “hiding in plain sight.” This concept can easily lead to discussions about how we can overlook people as well as how we choose to hide ourselves and be small. These are big ideas, but understanding them can help kids notice whom they might be overlooking and or how they themselves might be fading into the background. It also invites readers to think about what it is like to need a friend, how to be a friend as well as how to find a friend. All of these are important skills.

The ability to blend in and be part of a bigger picture can be useful. Sometimes, we even want to blend in so well that we become invisible so we can sit back, observe and determine what we want to do. Dragons Are Real makes an import point: We must embrace our “fire.” Allow it to burn brightly so we can be “seen” and cast a light for others to follow.

The illustrations are amazing and vividly interpret the text. The pictures are an adventure in their own right and compliment the text well. They add the perfect measure of whimsy, humor and ferocity.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: It is common for adoptees to spend considerable time thinking about big “what ifs.” (What if I hadn’t been adopted? What if I’d been adopted by someone else? What if my adoptive parents rejects me? And many more.) Many develop chameleon-like skill at blending in and becoming what they think others expect them to be–or do. Adoptees who don’t share a culture or race with their adoptive family may struggle to fit in ad feel “at home” in their adoptive family. Like the proverbial dragon striving to remake his fierce image, adoptees must learn how to blend… Click To Tweet The key is to fit in without losing their authentic selves, like a dragon who breathes fire but learns not to burn down the neighborhood!

 Fun activity

Ask your child to create a dragon from his imagination. Draw it. Paint it. Build it from Legos©, clay or from materials found in your recycle bin. Then give it a name. For an added challenge, try to include a Latin variation as Valerie did.  (J. K. Rowling also included Latin phrases in her beloved Harry Potter series; it sounds ever so mysterious and magical! I’m sure parents and Google, Siri, etc. can provide any needed assistance.) Encourage your child to write his/her dragon’s story; you just might be awakening a dormant talent.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017      (1/27/17)

jump-into-a-book-cropped

is in its fourth year and was founded bypragmatic-mom-banner-cropped

Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book

and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom.

Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.
Current Sponsors: MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin, Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson, Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O’Malley, Stacy McAnulty, Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE. Valerie and Mia

Dragons need friends-mcbd-2017-poster-final-875x1024MCBD Links to remember:  MCBD site
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators
Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use the official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

You can make a difference. Be a driving force for #Diversity in publishing. Click To Tweet Help ensure that we have a robust range of “windows” and “mirrors” so that all children can see themselves in their literature as well as introduce them to a broad array of cultures. Exposure grows familiarity which in turn, nurtures understanding and tolerance.

#BuyDiversity #ReadDiversity #WriteDiversity Click To Tweet

 

mcbd-sponsor-2017mcbd-2017-safety MCBD Author.badge

Goodwill to All Lights the Season with Hope and Joy

trees-of-the-dancing-goats-51omzsvscgl-_sx377_bo1204203200_Christians around the world celebrate the Christmas holiday and its beautiful message of compassion, inclusion, hope, and light a season with good will to all.  The Trees of the Dancing Goats by multi-award-winning author/illustrator Patricia Polacco. The curiously-titled book delivers an inspiring story of neighbor helping neighbor, Jew respecting Christian and reveals how one family “rescued”  Chritmas for their ailing community.

The cover features a childhood version of Polacco. In her hands she carries both a menorah and a tiny, decorated Christmas tree. Readers will intuit that the story blends parts of both traditions. They will discover a heartwarming, fact-based story that will inspire children and adults. The story takes place in Michigan where the snow falls deep, the temperatures plummet and neighborliness flourishes. When scarlet fever devastates the community, leaving families too ill to put up and decorate their trees, Patricia’s family saves the day. This  story will touch the hearts of adult and child readers and remind us that the best gifts are intangible.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: This book can open conversations about how we live together, first within our families and then beyond to our communities. Adoptive families combine disparate elements–birth and adoptive family heritages and traditions–so they will appreciate this story as a model for blending and respecting both.

Boxes: Springboard Creativity and Connection

Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connection

Play is an integral element in building family relationships and attachment. Through unstructured creative play, kids tap into inner resources and thoughts; often they unconsciously reveal concerns and beliefs. That’s why I love books that join creativity and play with reading.  I’m particularly fond of books featuring boxes as a theme. Boxes springboard creativity and connection.

A box invites imaginations to soar. We’ve all watched kids opt to play with the box in preference to a gift because kids have an instinctual drive to create and fantasize. Check out this collection of books about boxes. They just may help you have fun together. Or, equally important, they may reveal thoughts and feelings they find difficult to express and share. These books invite conversation and fun. 

In brief and jaunty rhyming text  Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connectionWhat to Do with a Box by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban declares, “A box is a wonder indeed. The only such magic that you’ll ever need.” The dreamy illustrations serve the theme well. Sheban draws the box with all the labels and markings still visible. Instead of limiting the fantasy element, this design choice reinforces the power of imagination to see beyond what is “real” and connect with what is possible.

Whether launching on a solo journey or sharing the box’s magical potential, an empty box dares us to dream and rocket into a flight of fantasy.

 

Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees have intimate experience with imagining alternate worlds. Click To Tweet They wonder what life might have been like had they not been adopted, or if they’d been adopted by a different family. A book like this invites kids and parents to share a box–and the fantasy it triggers. While journeying together, parents may be amazed at the variety of topics kids will explore. Let them take the lead and remain alert for seeds that can open adoption-connected conversations.

Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connection A Box Can Be Many Things by Dana Meachen Rau and Illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye is part of the Rookie Reader Series which means it uses simple language. (Includes a list or 51 words.) It captures the same exuberant imaginative spirit paired with bright illustrations.

Beginning readers will love the story line and the ability to read it themselves. Not only will this book spark their own flights of fancy, but it will also help build their reading skills. That’s a nice bonus!

 

 

Adoption-attuned Lens This book delivers a similar opportunity for adoptive families as the previous one.  Parents can also suggest that they imagine the box as a time-traveling machine. Imagine the places and people that children might fantasize about visiting. As always, allow children to take the lead on any conversation that touches on “big stuff.” As parents we must ensure that kids know their questions and thoughts are welcomed but we must not force them into having them on our timeline.

Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connection

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter inside a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Heller illustrated by Stacey Dressen McQueen takes a different spin on helping kids to realize the power of a box. This book comes from the PJ Library which “helps families explore the timeless values of Judaism.” 

The story describes the Jewish practice of creating tzedakah boxes. The name means “I’m happy when you’re happy.”  The actual translation is “fairness.”Children are encouraged to construct and decorate a box and then work to fill it with coins (or bills.). The money is then used to fund acts of charity and/or social justice.

Dalia tells her little brother that her tiny box holds a comforter, a butterfly bush and a cream pie. Brother  is little but can easily see the box is too small to hold all these things. He decides Dalia’s box is magic.

Everyone in Dalia’s class makes their own  tzedakah  and works to find ways to earn money to fill them. Once they’ve collected enough, they buy the yellow comforter fabric and then decorate it themselves. The story concludes with the children presenting the blanket to an elderly woman. She is overjoyed by their generosity and artistry and appreciates the flowers the children plant in her garden. Mostly she enjoys their companionship. The children discover the real magic of the box is how it elicits their generosity and empathy.

Adoption-attuned Lens Some kids have a strong natural inclination to kindness and generosity. This book is a great fit for them. And, some children especially those adopted from foster care, may have a profound awareness of the needs and struggles of others (their birth families, perhaps, or neighbors, etc.) These children may enjoy the idea of performing acts of kindness and generosity.

This activity may open some important and sensitive feelings. Stay alert for hints that kids wish… Click To Tweet

box metaphorIf this post intrigued you, please also read  Boxing Kids In  another book review blog post on boxes.

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.

Souping Things Up

Pumpkin Soup  written and illustrated by Helen Cooper unfolds a reinterpretation of the classic “Stone Soup.”  This retelling features many delightful twists. As in Stone Soup, the characters work together to create a tasty concoction. A bagpiping cat, a banjo-strumming squirrel and a singing duck joyfully prepare marvelous pumpkin soup. “Everyone has his own job to do. Everyone is happy. Or so it seems…”

Then the story shifts to a new direction. No longer about collaboration and pooling of scarce resources, Pumpkin Soup now focuses on the tension among the former friends. Duck isn’t content with her assigned task. She insists on trying her hand at stirring the soup. But, Cat and Squirrel wish for things to stay the same. Duck insists on having her chance to stir. The friends quarrel. Angry and frustrated, Duck leaves the cabin.

The story continues to unfold as Squirrel and Cat come to wish they had given Duck a chance. They worry when Duck doesn’t return. “Not even for lunch.” Young readers will readily identify with this conflict-among-friends scenario because it happens so often in their own lives.

The book does a great job of capturing the character’s frustration, remorse and most importantly their commitment to their friendship as well as their willingness to repair the breach. Their solution provides an excellent template for readers to embrace.

Pumpkin Soup offers an important reminder to parents as well that we must allow kids to try things. Although it takes longer and often results in a mess or in parents having to be satisfied with a less-than-perfect performance. The reward is a child’s increased competency and a reinforcement of their willingness to persevere through multiple “imperfect” attempts to ultimate success.

Five stars starstarstarstarstar

 

magnifying lens AQ.2AQ Lens: Many adopted kids avoid trying new things because they feel that failure will result in loss of acceptance, approval and at their most anxious level of fear, a loss of their family.

As Cat and Squirrel worry about their missing friend, they wonder if Duck has found “better friends.” It would be an easy segue to talking about loyalty among friends and then on to discussions of family permanency.

 

Sibling Relationships, Learning to Get Along

Peace, Bugs and UnderstandingHelping our children navigate the changing seas of sibling relationships is one of many important tasks faced by parents. Sometimes we intervene while other times we allow our children to work it out themselves. Learning to compromise, to speak up for oneself and to disagree respectfully is an essential life skill. Sibling relationships provide an opportunity to learn these basics. Peace, Bugs and Understanding: An Adventure in Sibling Harmony by Gail Silver and illustrated by Youme Nguyen Ly explores this subject. Lily is tired of her little sister spoiling things and she envies the attention that little Ruby garners from her parents.

When the toddler “ruins” her family’s picnic, anger churns inside Lily and leaves her gruff and frustrated. Luckily, her dad has come prepared. He shares a special book with Lily–her grandfather’s boyhood journal from 1923. The journal describes his experience with a talking frog, an annoying sibling and the overwhelming weight of anger. Exhausted by the burden of his angry feelings, he turns to deep breathing and a series of prayerful meditations:

 

Breathing in, breathing out…

May I be happy’

May I be safe,

May I be strong,

May I live with peace….

May we all be happy,

May we all be safe.

May we all live with peace.”

Lily, immersed in the book, loses track of her little sister. When she looks for Ruby, for a brief moment, Lily cannot find her. In that space, Lily realizes how much she loves her sister.

magnifying lens AQ.2AQ Lens: All children experience feelings of inadequacy, rivalry and anger. For adoptees, this emotion is poignant and frightening. The flip side of “not good enough” is an intense need for attention. Readers will identify with Lily’s frustration. They can benefit from the strategies modeled in the book. The lush, pastel watercolor illustrations evoke a soft contemplative mood. The presence of Asian characters adds a welcome note of diversity.

I rate  Peace, Bugs and Understanding: An Adventure in Sibling Harmony  starstarstarstar

 

What Makes a Family? Connection and Difference in Adoption

who's in my family

Children will be delighted as they search to find themselves reflected in Who’s in My Family? by Robbie H. Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. The spirited illustrations include families of every stripe, color and arrangement. Even the locales, cuisine and activities are diverse, accepting and positive.  The simple story line follows a brother and sister through a day at the zoo. While there, they observe a variety of families—human and animal.

The tone of the story is upbeat and accepting and emphasizes that, regardless of the specific people who make up a family, it is created through caring and love. Readers will enjoy spending  time studying the illustrations and hunting for details–both those that reflect themselves as well as those that highlight differences. This exploration lends itself to conversations about what makes a family and how differences enhance our lives.

AQ Lens: The most obvious benefit that Who’s in My Family? offers is the normalizing of differences. Each grouping is accepted and respected. Love is accepted as the definitive requirement to be a family. Young adoptees will be reassured to see that adoption is not the only way that families can be different.
heather has two mommies Heather Has Two Mommies  by Lesléa Newman is a twenty-fifth anniversary reissue and re-visioning of the groundbreaking story of a family with two moms. Both the text and the illustrations have been updated to reflect current understanding of adoption.  The subtle watercolor illustrations by Laura Cornell set a warm mood for the upbeat text. While Heather’s family–and her two moms is a central part of the story, the nucleus of the story is about the wide range of families that are reflected among Heather’s classmates. By establishing this tone, the uniqueness of Heather’s family does not seem startling. Instead it exists as one of many family constellations. Heather’s classmates also include many ethnicities so it is another nod to inclusion.

AQ Lens: This  book offers a chance to discuss the idea of how families can look  very different but still be a family. By having books like this on a child’s shelf, they can freely select it whenever they feel the need to explore this theme; thus the child doesn’t have to wait for adults to raise the topic first. The mere inclusion of such a book sends a clear message that it is a permissible topic. This is important for all adoptive families, even those who are more normative because all adoptive families are “different” by virtue of the fact that they grew through adoption. We have a fundamental vested interest in tolerance and acceptance.

 

 

We go togetherWe Go Together  by Todd Dunn and illustrated by Miki Sakamoto provides a delightful collection of “pairs” in a child’s life. Think: “socks and shoes, “ice cream and cone,” and “dog and bone.” Some obvious pairs are absent, like peanut butter and jelly,  so readers will have fun brainstorming their own pairs. I included this charming book based upon it’s final lines: “We go together because you love me and I love you.” Love, after all, is what links a family together.

AQ Lens: Take the opportunity to discover links of commonality beyond the obvious one of appearances. Just as adoptive family members don’t necessarily look similar, other commonalities do exist. We just have to deepen our noticing skills to help us identify them. Equally important, we must convey to our children that the way we are different is also validated and appreciated.

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.

starstarstarstarstar

Valentine Lullaby

lullaby.langstonThis week we celebrate Valentine’s Day and the gift that is love. What greater blessing than that of a mother’s love? It is exquisitely depicted in the book, Lullaby (for a Black Mother.) Based on the Langston Hughes poem, it is illustrated by Sean Qualls in acrylic, pencil and collage.

This lovely book beautifully captures the intimacy of a bedtime ritual. The text is melodious, soothing and accompanied by pictures in the perfect palette of soft hues of blues, purples and aqua.

When I view the book’s universal theme of mother/child connection through the lens of adoption-attunement, what do I notice?

 

First, in contrast to the “color blind” approach often advocated, the poem highlights the baby’s race: “My little black baby/My dark body’s baby.” Color is a point of connection, of joy, of beauty. Race is not erased, over-looked or ignored; it is celebrated.

Second, for trans-racially adopted children, this book might open a conversation about how his birth mother might have held him and sung similar feelings. This would be a lovely idea to plant in a child’s heart and provides a concrete way of living an attitude of respect for a child’s birth family.

Regardless of race, this is a visual delight, an evocative and calming bedtime read.