What Makes A Family?

In our mothers house.PolaccoAs an adoptive parent, an adoption coach and a writer on adoption issues, I found In Our Mother’s House by renowned author, illustrator Patricia Polacco exceptional. As is probably obvious from the title, the story focuses on a/n (adoptive) family with two mothers. Readers searching for stories that include LGBTQ families will appreciate this upbeat and poignant tale.

Written as a flashback from a now-adult adoptee who recalls some treasured and delightful memories of her childhood, In Our Mother’s House focuses on the positives, on how families can look different but still be about the love and care that connect them. Lesbian parenting is not the focus of the book; it is the backdrop. The story concentrates on the warm, supportive and “regular”  family that the children and their two mothers shared. Love, tolerance and joy thread throughout.

While most of the neighborhood characters welcome and embrace this unique family, one does not. Polacco makes the point subtly—the children wonder why Mrs. Lockner grumps at them whenever they meet her. The mothers concentrate on reaching out to neighbors (all of them) to create community.

The illustrations include a dazzling array of diversity. Many lend themselves to further exploration of cuisine, language and neighborliness, etc. Although the story is about a family formed through adoption, it doesn’t concentrate on adoption issues, makes no mention of the emotional struggles that adoptees often face nor does it mention birth parents, etc. In Our Mother’s House is a sweet, feel-good book about the wondrous blessing of a loving family. Great book!

A Family Collage in Beautiful Color

sugarplum 2Recently the internet lit up with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks . Imagine my delight when I came across this gem: I Bet She Called Me Sugarplum by Joanne V. Gabbin Illustrated by Margot Berman. It impressed me in many ways. First, and foremost, it is a book about an Afro-American family, the stories memories and experiences that bind them together. A small but integral part of the story reveals that the child came into her family through adoption. Both she and her adoptive family are Afro-American as well. The exquisitely detailed collages,  illustrate the story and serve as a metaphor for the stitching together of an adopted family.

Told in rhyming poetry, the story highlights the relationships that tie family generations together. This is an important way of quilting extended families together and is especially valuable for fostering connectivity in an adoptive family.

The story is upbeat and respectful for the little girl’s birth family and nurtures her ability to regard them with love, kindness and a sense of being valued. All are excellent goals for an adoptive family. The adoptive mother clearly affirms this attitude: “Another mommy loved you and left you to our care.” When parents approach a child’s history with this kind of acceptance, it encourages an open dialog. This helps kids feel comfortable discussing questions and feelings that arise from their adoption.

It includes a paper doll cutout, which encourages a wonderful—and somewhat forgotten—way of role playing that encourages the reader to imagine being the child in the book!

The warm and tender feelings, the gorgeous illustrations, and the lush text make this an excellent read. All kids will enjoy this book whether they are adopted or not. As an adoption coach and an adoptive parent, I would give this book five stars.


Sugar Plum