Life’s Path: One Heart, One Compass

Heart-shaped pond in a tropical forest

More than any other month, February focuses our attention on affairs of the heart. Usually this conjures thoughts of romance or affection. Let’s consider instead, another vital role our hearts play: they help us to connect with our core Purpose and values. Our hearts have an inner knowing that recognizes the what and why of our lives. Of course, children are not consciously aware of such conceptual thoughts. Yet they have an intuitive ability to understand metaphor and the way it can explain big ideas.


North Star.border.3The North Star
written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds, is a gem of a book that explores the notion of a guiding purpose, a compass to follow throughout our lives. As the boy travels through life, he recognizes that he is on a journey. He comes to understand that everyone must  follow the inner knowing of one’s heart to carve out a life.

Sometimes one is content to follow a well-trodden path commonly pursued by many. Blindly “following the well-worn path, he had a growing feeling that he was lost.” He discovers the importance of taking the path less traveled, the one that only he can blaze. He comes to appreciate that each of us journeys on our own path.

Beautiful illustrations in ink and watercolor perfectly capture the dreamy and magical quality of the story. Five Stars

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AQ Lens:  In an effort to “fit in,” adopted children often find it easier to follow the traditional patterns of their adoptive family. They may  do this for many reasons: to “please” parents; to avoid looking different; because they believe they aren’t “allowed” to be different; or for another reason.

The North Star opens an easy opportunity to talk about remaining true to oneself, of listening to that quiet inner voice that frames the core of who one is. Parents might want to directly reinforce their desire to nurture their child’s talents, both those they have in common as well as those that stem from the child’s biology.

Adoptive families must constantly convey that both/and attitude that emphasizes love, acceptance and appreciation of their child’s dual heritage and reassure children that they need not surrender or suppress part of themselves in a mistaken notion that it is unwelcome.

You Be You.51zzPRl18oL._SY439_BO1,204,203,200_
You Be You
 by Linda Kranz is a riotous fest of color and whimsy with a big message. It celebrates individuality and commonality in equal measure. Some “fish” are big, some little; some swim with the group; some swim on a solitary journey. Each is following their compass. “We all have something special that only we can share.” There’s a place for all.

Graffitti-style messages decorate the end papers. Each one invites discussion.

Five Stars

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AQ Lens:  Adoptive families will want to frequently explore concepts like individuality, commonality and difference. Each stands as an important part of the dynamics in adoption. Conversations can, in age-appropriate language explore the idea of being genuine–often a “hot” topic for adoptive families.

Questions worth exploring are: What is a “real” family? “Real parent” “Real” sibling? How is each family member both unique and different? Why do both have value? How does difference/similarity enrich families?

Readers might want to check out, Only One You also by Linda Kranz which also focuses on the importance of being one’s best self.

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The Wisdom of Two Father’s

Lost LakeTwo books that capture the special connection children share with their dads are Lost Lake written and illustrated by Allen Say and  Enemy Pie written by Derek Munson and illustrated by Tara Calahan King .

In Lost Lake, a boy visits his overly-busy non-custodial father and finds himself craving a more intimate experience, one that moves beyond merely sharing the same residence. Both father and son struggle to express their thoughts and feelings in words. When Luke cuts up his dad’s magazine and tapes them to the wall, it takes two days before father notices. When Dad finally does, the boy asks, “Are you angry with me, Dad?” The dad dismisses the damage as meaningless “I’m having the place painted anyway.”

Luke thinks to himself, “He thought I was talking about the marks on the wall.” This line implies so much poignant emotion. Whether in a divorced family or not, kids will readily identify with the feeling of invisibility and the yearning for focused one-on-one time with a parent.  In typical child-thinking, the boy assumes the blame for his dad’s aloof behavior  and is saddened that Dad apparently thinks the question refers to the wall. Believing his Dad missed the point, the boy still wonders why Dad doesn’t talk to him, wonders what he did to make his Dad angry and wonders how he can grab Dad’s attention.

As the story continues, we discover that Dad understood much more. They embark on a week-long journey to find Lost Lake. They discover so much more about themselves and their relationship. Persisting through set backs, pushing through the challenges, they trek on–together, in pursuit of a common goal. Their journey brings deeper understanding of themselves and a closer bond.

I liked this book because it depicted a non-custodial dad working to connect with his child but not in a common Disney Dad activity. Instead he chooses a less-chosen path and that makes all the difference. The exquisite water colors provide a lovely touch for the delicate tone of this book. I rate this five +++++.

Enemy PieEnemy Pie tackles a common experience for kids: a new child moves into the neighborhood and upsets the delicate balance of  friendships and comes between best friends.

Learning to cope with the quicksilver changes of childhood allegiances is something all children face. They feel the betrayal, the confusion and the anger. Kids will understand the boy’s desire to wreak revenge–in the form of a huge slice of Enemy Pie– on the intruder.

What the boy never sees coming, is the magic of Enemy Pie lies not in the ingredients, but in the journey leading up to its being served.

In the vein of the classic Stone SoupEnemy Pie delivers an unpredicted and satisfying conclusion to the boy’s dilemma. Dad creates a transforming experiencing without a single bit of preaching. Enemy Pie showcases Dad Wisdom at its best.

Both of these wonderful books reinforce the important role fathers play in their children’s lives. Buy or borrow a copy to share with your family today.