Kids Find Inner Lion: the Strength of the Hero Within

The Lion Inside.51T3oKWEACL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_

Inside of each of us lives an Inner Lion. Sometimes he is dormant but he is always there waiting for  us to tap into our powerful potential. Even adults often struggle to remember this “hero within” so it is vital for us to help children discover and embrace their Inner Lion. This hero exists in all of us regardless of our stature or age. But he must compete with the other voices inside our heads-the ones who broadcast, fear, self-doubt, timidity and despair

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and illustrated by Jim Field brilliantly demonstrates that the most powerful person in my life is me. It also hammers home the truism “Never judge a book by its cover.” So often the face we present to the world hides our genuine selves, the selves that our both brave and fearful, confident and cautious.

When we (both kids and adults) make judgments about others based on externals, we overlook the opportunity to connect with the whole person and all of us lose the chance to be genuine. Ironically, we often treat ourselves no better and criticize ourselves with the same harsh judgment!

Fields’ fabulous illustrations carry a lot of the story’s message. The difference in size between the tiny mouse and the huge lion reinforces the immensity of the mouse’s decision to confront the lion. By connecting to his Inner Lion he awoke the bravery needed to accomplish his goal. Taken from the lion’s perspective, the reader experiences the other side of the equation. Physical size doesn’t protect one from fear. Courage does. Courage acknowledges fear and still chooses to act.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: All kids strive to find their niche in school, their neighborhoods, etc. Adoptees also must learn to find their comfort spot in their new families. Sometimes they can feel as mismatched and powerless as this little mouse when he faced the roaring lion. This story invites readers to consider that beyond stature and externals, each of us has important skills and gifts to contribute, fears to overcome, and opportunities to grow. Each family member benefits from being part of the larger whole. Diversity enriches families. And classrooms, neighborhoods and communities.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles.51oUYa5gt8L._SY457_BO1,204,203,200_

All of us yearn to be included, to have friends and to be appreciated.  The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles  written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead tackles this idea from a nuanced perspective. Pastel images convey the watery context of both ocean and fantasy world and strike the perfect note of mystery and dreaminess.

Cuevas writes that the main character–the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles–“Had no name.” This choice is brilliant because his anonymity renders him as “Everyman” that part of all human beings, kids and adults, who crave recognition and validation. The Uncorker dedicates himself to his life task: ensuring that he locates the rightful recipient for every message in a bottle he discovers. Through his diligent efforts, he finds purpose, steps beyond his own loneliness and engages with others. His actions solve his “problem.” He is so pleased with the results of his efforts, he commits to repeating his efforts. Young readers will recognize the great model he sets.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: Action is key to overcoming fear, creating connection and displacing loneliness. This book helps adopted children to see the benefits of reaching out instead of waiting for others to reach out first. (This is not to shift the burden of creating family connection from the parents but rather to show kids how they can contribute to the process.)

Poor Little Guy.51A1ZTLGLWL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_Poor Little Guy  written and illustrated by Elanna Allen also focuses on the relationship between stature, fear and, courage. Allen conveys a lot of information in her illustrations which include only two characters: an octopus and a tiny, tiny wide-eyed, bespectacled fish. Immense disparity in their size highlights why the fish feels threatened by the octopus.

At first glance readers might think the octopus is playing with the fish. The octopus’ immense arms transform into many things–a fish-sketball net, a complex maze, a bird-cage, etc. Soon it becomes clear that he is actually “toying” with the fish. Each transformation is intended to remind the fish of the octopus’ size, strength and power to control the little fish.

Until the octopus mentions how tasty he thinks the little guy will be. His threat awakens the Inner Lion of the fish. He draws on his courage and his ability to defend himself. The reader discovers that the little fish isn’t so helpless after all. He uses his special skill to successfully defeat the octopus’ evil intentions. Read the book to find out exactly how he accomplishes this! Don’t we all love it when the underdog–er, underfish– is victorious?

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: It is important for kids to recognize how they can stand up for themselves and tap into their ability to be agents of their own success. For adopted children who sometimes encounter bias and bullying because they were adopted, this message of self-advocacy is an important one. Again, this point is not intended to invalidate their experiences. Rather it is meant to add a skill with which they can cope. Dismissing or trivializing bullying does not address the situation!

I wasn't Invited to the Birthday.51QhF7wiBOL._SX428_BO1,204,203,200_I Wasn’t Invited to the Birthday  written by Susanna Isern and illustrated by Adolfo Serra addresses the universal experience of being left out. No one enjoys feeling invisible, inferior or, unaccepted. Among children these slights often occur “publicly” when kids distribute invitations at school. Even in classrooms where that practice is forbidden, kids talk about upcoming events which can leave the uninvited kids feeling bleak and marginalized.

The gift of this book is how it shows kids a way to take control. They can choose to look beyond the ranks of the “in crowd” to find friendship.  (Commonly, a child’s first instinct is to shun others who are on the margins in the hope that they will be “tainted” by befriending an unpopular child. Unfortunately, fear drives them to collude in the ostracizing of other children.)

In this story, however, the uninvited kids band together. The story takes a fantasy vibe and the kids “enjoy an unforgettable afternoon.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: For kids wrestling with feelings of rejection–which almost all adoptees report at some time in their lives–reading a story of finding ones “group” is helpful. Perhaps that means befriending other adoptees, or kids who share the same passion for a common interest–sports, the arts, etc. Whatever that common ground is, it is important to reach out and search for it.

As mentioned in the previous review, this point is not intended to invalidate their experiences. Rather it is meant to add another coping skill. Dismissing or trivializing their experience does not fix the problem.

Our theme for #DiverseKidLit in February is Love. Please consider sharing diverse books and resources that support love and families. (As always, the theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?  Diverse Children’s Books 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

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:

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

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestMia @ Pragmatic Mom Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books   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!

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

 

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!

School–in the Classroom and Beyond

Thank you, Mr. Falker.51NsaAZq0AL._SX388_BO1,204,203,200_Over the next few weeks, children across America will return to school. Though many will complain loudly, by summer’s end, most children look forward to the return of a steady routine, being with friends and learning new things.

But. Not. All.

For some children school is a trial. Learning to read challenges and overwhelms them. While the rest of their class breezes through books, these unlucky kiddos face discouragement, teasing and major bruises to their self-image. No one wants to feel stupid. Click To Tweet For kids suffering from dyslexia, their difficulty in mastering this fundamental skill convinces them their learning difficulty means exactly this: in their own minds, they are stupid. Everyone else seems to master reading easily.

This is why I love Thank you, Mr. Falker, written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. (Yes, that Patricia Polacco, the one who grew up to write & illustrated dozens of children’s books which have won many awards.) It is the true story of Polacco’s childhood struggle to learn to read. Dogged by bullies and plagued by her own self-doubts, Patricia grew to hate school. Every time I read this book, it makes me cry. The story conveys the girl’s emotional pain with authenticity and empathy. The reader aches on behalf of Patricia as she strives to overcome dyslexia and rejoices with her when Mr. Falker identifies her “disability” and provides her with the tools she needs to learn.

He also helps her to recognize her exceptional talent as an artist. To a child feeling defeated and stupid, having a way to shine makes a huge  difference. We need someone to believe in us; often it's the key that enables us to believe in ourselves. Click To Tweet

Readers will enjoy the author’s epilogue commentary describing her encounter with Mr. Falker thirty years later. He asked her what her occupation was. She replied, “I make books for children.” They both appreciated the irony. This book is a glorious Thank You to the teachers who make a difference in children’s lives and the kids who muster the courage to keep trying even when a challenge is truly daunting.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Children who were adopted face the challenge of integrating their dual heritage (birth and adoptive) into a cohesive, healthy identity. They are familiar with the kind of determination and courage that it takes to keep trying even when a task is hard. they can easily identify with Patricia’s yearning to be like her peers and to not be burdened with being different.   Thank you Mr. Falker provides hope because Patricia's story is fact not fiction. Click To Tweet

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled.614a5DH2tZL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, written and illustrated by Lyn Rae Perkins shares the story of a boy and his dog–two lost souls in search of answers. They find those answers in each other. Along the way they discover lots of things about the world around them as well as about themselves.

Readers can race through this book or, read only a few pages at a time because the soft watercolor illustrations paired with word balloon comments invite conversations to digress along suggested story threads. No matter how experiments turn out, you always learn something.--Patricia Polacco Click To Tweet

Teachers will appreciate the many opportunities this book offers to show how school “subjects” exist beyond the confines of the classroom. For example, one illustration pictures Frank and Lucky in bed at various stages throughout the night with a line indicating how much of the bed Frank occupies and how much Lucky claims. Kids kids will never realize that’s fractions in action. They will delight in the fascinating ways the lives of a dog and boy mirror one another. Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, injects a bit of  “education” in a novel way, one that demonstrates that the world is our classroom and life is the curriculum.

Another fun example asks, “If a chair is accidentally left pulled out from the table at 8:30 in the morning, how much cake will be left at 4:00 in the afternoon? … We won’t know the answer until someone comes home. And then it will be a history question.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Each of the activities shared by Frank and Lucky can be mimicked to reflect a reader’s personal world. For example, they can create maps of their room, house, or neighborhood. For that AQ* flair, they could  choose a location from either their birth or adoptive home.

Or, they may tackle some “history” questions about their own lives. These can be serious or lighthearted; be sure to let the child decide which it will be.

Wisdom for Life’s Journey: Be Brave. Be You.

June is the month of graduations and weddings. It conjures thoughts of celebrations, of beginnings, of setting a course for the future and, of pursuing dreams. This post will review three utterly charming picture books that are suitable for any age! They celebrate possibility, success and unconditional love. Enjoy!

 Wonderful things you will be.51q3+u5cenL._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_The Wonderful Things You Will Be, written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin delivers a message every one of us needs to hear: “I wonder what wonderful things you will be…and I’ll love you, whoever you’ve grown up to be.” Martin’s delicate, multicultural illustrations convey an air of  fantasy and dreaminess that suits the inspirational thematic message well.

Regardless of age, we all benefit from regular infusions of this idea: that each of us is unique, has purpose and deserves love. I assert that both reader and listener will enjoy reading and rereading this book, time after time. With each reading they will experience a thrum of warmth. Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens This book is a wonderful stepping stone to conversations. It can both explore the child’s dreams and discuss the historical patterns in the family–adoptive as well as biological. This affirms the child’s fundamental right to bloom into the person potentiated by both nature and nurture. Such a conversation reassures children that they have “permission” to follow their North Star and relieves them of the notion that they must become their parents’ fantasy child. This is an essential message which adoptive families must deliver convincingly and repeat over time.

I Wish You More.51mmWnyOKEL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_In  I Wish You More the partnership of Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Todd Lichtenheld has generated another gem. This talented duo shapes 120 words into a powerful message of hope, resilience and joy  worthy of all readers, child and or adult.

For example “I wish you more give than take… more we than me.” This telegraphs such a timely message of tolerance, partnership, and, universal hope. The story concludes with an affirmation of acceptance and love: “You are everything I could wish for…”

Isn’t that the reassurance that we all crave throughout our lives? Five Stars! One of the things

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens  One of the things I like about this charming book is how it mentions challenges and obstacles. Adopted children have real life experience with loss and grief. Yet the overarching message which the narrator (parent) conveys is that it is possible to have “more ups than downs…more tippy-toes than deep.” The message validates reality for our kids: they have had “downs” and they have struggled in “the deep.”

So Many Days. 51c5cqnd7DL._SY468_BO1,204,203,200_ Allison McGhee collaborated on So Many Days with illustrator Taeen Yoo to create a lovely tale of encouragement, possibility, and affirmation. A refrain that repeats throughout text asks, “Who will you be and where will you go? And how will you know?”

This invitation to consider one’s life dream is then followed by important advice, “Words will open your heart and kindness will open your soul.”

Yoo’s detailed illustrations embody these wise words. They depict the child’s diminutive size in a way that suggests his bravery while confronting difficult odds instead succumbing to helplessness and fear. In one two-page spread we see the boy in his tiny rowboat as he navigates a storm-tossed sea and encounters a gigantic whale. His bravery vanquishes his fears!

Like the other titles reviewed in this post, So Many Days  concludes with an affirmation: “You are loved more than you know.” Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens In the illustrations mentioned above–the boy with the whale–the moment captures the feeling of immense odds and the boy’s formidable ability to survive. This page can lead to an important discussion about the storm-tossed moments of the child’s life–if they feel up to and open to that discussion. If that is too strong, the conversation can take a more removed tack and discuss how “some kids” face difficulties and how they survive them.

Begin and end. wisdom.PicMonkey Collage

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.

Only One You.51799cG5plL._SY426_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Someone Wonderful Is Coming

Something Wonderful.612ElbG3o9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Regardless of specific faith, the holiday season focuses on family, generosity and being a light for others. They Told Us Something Wonderful Was Coming written and illustrated by Bev Stone,  beautifully captures the joy which envelopes a family as they anticipate a new child’s arrival. The narrator explains to the reader that the entire world recognized that “something wonderful was coming.” Animals and insects, clouds and rainbows, all quivered with joyful anticipation. And what could ignite such wonder and excitement? The arrival of a new child of course!  The story concludes creatures, great and small “somehow, they knew about you!”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* Lens: This story serves a feast for the eyes and the heart. Delicate watercolors fill each page depicting the manifest ways that the world brightened in anticipation of a marvelous event. Each page turn delivers a unique moment of excitement that builds the reader’s excitement as he wonders what could provoke such happiness?

All of us–child and adult–love to hear and feel that are arrival was celebrate. The age of the child on whom the story centers is not specified; it could be a baby, toddler, teen or any age in between which makes this story a great fit for adoptive families.  Many books honor the anticipation and arrival of a new baby but rarely do we find a book that expands the arrival of a new family member who is older. As adoptive parents we know how important it is for older children to feel welcome, important and special. Five stars

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Full, full, full of love.51a0ldDzfzL._SY490_BO1,204,203,200_Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cole is another story that elicits warm, snugly feelings. It follows a grandson’s visit with his grandmother. Together they prepare the Sunday feast for the extended family. Jay Jay is excited to  spend time with his Grannie. Their tender connection jumps off every page. Grannie keeps Jay Jay busy “helping”  which distracts him until everyone arrives. It also teaches an important lesson about work: it is not a punishment but rather a way of showing how much we care. Young children yearn to “help”; often it is easier for adults to deflect their awkward attempts because it is easier for adult to do it alone. This story shows how if draws the boy closer to his grandma and reinforces the desire to work.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts an African-American family in a universal  experience. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gather for a home-cooked meal at Grannie’s. It’s not to observe a holiday or some major event but simply to celebrate the blessing of being a family. I appreciate the ordinariness of this.  

This book would be a wonderful choice for any child, regardless of race. It serves to depict the commonalities we share and thus, is a great choice for advancing a multicultural awareness.

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And Here's to You..51ccZotpV8L._SX452_BO1,204,203,200_And Here’s to You,  by David Ellitott and illustrated by Randy Cecil is an exuberant riff on tolerance and respect for others and the universality of our experiences. Cartoon-like illustrations pair with a refrain that carries throughout the book. Whether it is birds, bugs, cats, dogs, bears, or all manner of people, each is wonderful and valued. Now that is a message we all enjoy hearing. Again and again and again.

 

 

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts a variety of characters both animal and human and infused with diversity that is the foundation of the story’s premise. It reinforces another important concept of unconditional love: “Here’s to the sweet you/The messy and the neat you/ the funny-way-you-eat you/ The head to your feet you…Oh, how I love you!” Kids can never get enough reassurance that their parent’s love is not conditional on behavior, looks or anything else.

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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.

Cinderella Around the World

family readingFairy tales are a perennial favorite with children. They appear in all cultures. Infused with regional/national flavor and history, they hold common elements. They offer an easy and effective way of broadening your child’s involvement in the greater world. (This is important as technology shrinks our modern world and increasingly reinforces our connection as citizens of the world.)

 

The Cinderella tale, for example has been shared through the generations around the world. While young readers will recognize the fundamental similarities, they will also be fascinated–perhaps even surprised–to see the myriad ways in which the tale can be tweaked. In addition to cultural nuances,  some Cinderella tales spin a yarn with a male hero. This provides a fun and unexpected twist and demonstrates another way in which difference can be embraced instead of feared.

Cendrillon.Caribbean Cinderella.61BFZ1ecydL._SX463_BO1,204,203,200_

Reading several versions of a tale like Cinderella, can also jump start a child’s imagination and help him to understand there isn’t necessarily only one “right” way for things to be. Why not explore the world through Cinderella’s tale? You’ll find many chances to talk about your child’s beliefs about magical solutions, persistence, kindness, bullying etc. These are important topics that you will want to be intentional about nurturing and shaping.

 

Some versions of Cinderella infuse the tale with Cindy Ellen. American West Cinderella.61nQJOTv9IL._SY417_BO1,204,203,200_

regional flavor like, The Salmon Princess: An Alaskan Cinderella, or Cindy-Ellen: A Wild West Cinderella, or Smokey Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella

 

 

Appalachian Cinderella.518tfdZW0XL._SX367_BO1,204,203,200_Others recast the story the tale in a contemporary light, like Cinder-Elly which is a rap-type retelling with an urban setting. Check out the book cover array for additional suggestions. Invite your child to create his/her own version of the tale. Will the hero be male or female? Contemporary or from times past? Set locally or in a more exotic land? Have fun!

Perhaps your child will rewrite the story so that Cinderella creates her own solution instead of being rescued. Start the project and see where it leads you.

 

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AQ Lens. As I’ve consistently written, adoptive families live with the duality of being seen as both the same and different from biologically formed families. Reading versions on a Cinderella theme can easily segue into conversations about how one’s adoptive family is also a variation of a family–not better or less than–yet none-the-less different. Children may share some of their complex feelings about this “different-ness.” Such big feelings are a lot for a child to shoulder alone. A book that helps kids bring their thoughts into the open and get the support they need is well worth reading.

As you read stories that differ culturally, read with a sharp eye for any bias in the texts and/or illustrations. This too,is an important lesson: look at things with a judicious eye and do not accept something simply because it is in print, on-line, etc. Start early to teach your children to be savvy, critical thinkers.

Rough-face Girl.41PgXz2z3jL._SX380_BO1,204,203,200_

Golden sandal.61FQFW87XTL._SY473_BO1,204,203,200_

Egyptian Cinderella.61WHLPPrxWL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

 

 

Adelita. Mexican Cinderella.51A6Y827nOL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Anklet for a Princess. India Cinderella.510X4AQ7B8L._SY390_BO1,204,203,200_

Domitila.Mexican Cinderella.513558DVPKL._SX354_BO1,204,203,200_

Abedaha.Philipine Cinderella.61D-X4LuYZL._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

Libraries Open Worlds and Conversations

Lola at library.51iJdPufLuL._SX433_BO1,204,203,200_ Lola at the Library written by Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, has garnered numerous awards*. It deserves each one of them. The story is engaging and features Lola, a sweet African-American girl as the main character. Lola is so excited about her weekly visit to the library, she can’t sleep. She awakens her mother early so they can get ready (with plenty of time to spare!) Lola packs her bag with the books she needs to return, grabs her library card and walks to the library with her mother. Once they arrive, Lola hands the books to the librarian, then she enjoys visiting with the other children. They sing songs, listen to story time, and then choose new books to take home. Lola and her mother enjoy their walk home. At bedtime, they snuggle together and read Lola’s new books.

Lola at the Library portrays three strong messages. The most obvious: the library is a fun place to visit. Second, Books captivate Lola’s imagination and she loves choosing and reading.  Third, mother certainly values reading. After all, she’s spending her time and energy to take Lola to the library and to read her selections to her. A fourth important, although more subtle, message is that mother values reading for herself too. Young readers will intuit this because each time mother and Lola visit the library, mother also selects her own reading material.

We know that parental actions teach our children more persuasively than our words. Mother’s actions live out how she values reading. This reinforces Lola’s interest. Kids who love reading and are exposed to lots of books before they attend school usually fare much better in school. They have broader vocabularies and tend to learn how to read more easily and more quickly. his in turn, reduces stress and encourages kids to like school.

Finally a subtle but pivotal message threads through the story: Lola is repeatedly shown as capable and self-reliant. She gathers her own books. She fills her own backpack. She hands the books to the librarian. When kids are small, they enjoy helping and doing for themselves. Their initial efforts are usually clumsy, time consuming and less-than-perfect. Busy parents may find it hard to “watch and wait” as kids struggle to handle tasks. Patience pays off when kids master tasks. They build a pattern of self-sufficiency that nurtures independence. In the long run, it pays off for the entire family. When kids learn responsibility and independence, this frees parents from having to shoulder it.

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magnifying lens AQ.2AQ Lens*: Nurturing capability is an exceptionally important practice especially for adoptees who often wrestle with feelings of not being good enough. Building self-reliance results when the family approaches life as a learning conversation. Failure is accepted as the channel for mastery.

Another benefit of reading Lola at the Library  is the message it telegraphs that books create a shared moment between parent and child as they read together. This creates a model for young readers. If the family book shelf  has a wide selection including some on adoption children will see them as a great chance to open adoption conversations!

Beardshaw’s delightful illustrations include a mix of ethnicities in the library, story time and when Lola is out in the community.

 

AWARDS*

Bank Street College of Education’s The Best Children’s Books of the Year

Book-of-the-Month Cub, Alternate Selection

EarlyChildhoodNews Director’s Choice Award–Judges Selection

National Parenting Award, Honor

 

Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw have written two more Lola books. Lola Loves Books features Lola and her daddy while Lola Reads to Leo, tells how Lola reads to her new baby brother. Check them out!

 

Lola loves stories.51C6XrXxyNL._SX436_BO1,204,203,200_

Lola Reads to Leo.51007CEiUpL._SX442_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

 

 

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children

 

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our ChildrenShades of Black is also written by Sandra L. Pinckney with photographs by Myles C. Pinkney. It  is a delightful book that examines race from a slant of color appreciation. In direct contrast to the popular (but ill-placed notion*) of adoptive parents seeking to create “color blind” families, Shades of Black asks the reader to notice race and to notice the diversity that racial identity includes.

The text is a rich blend of vivid and unexpected metaphor. The accompanying photographs bring these novel images to life. The book’s premise is presented with respect and warmth and depicts the spectrum of skin tones of children who identify themselves as black. All families can benefit from reading it as a great way to explore race. Black children will especially appreciate the message of inclusion and celebration which the book offers.

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children      starstarstarstar

magnifying lens AQ.2

AQLens: As often stated in this blog, whether we are transracial families or not, adoptive families have a vested interest in cultivating tolerance, inclusion and multiculturalism. We are poster families for “difference” and frequently face the challenges of people questioning the validity of our families, posing intrusive/offensive questions and imposing expectations of gratitude (on our children,) and heroism (on us, for “rescuing” our kids.)

Beyond the obvious message of appreciating the rainbow of humanity’s color, this book invites discussion of race, of difference, of acceptance and of respect. Some might argue that the book reinforces the belief that anyone of a mixed heritage which includes only the slightest bit of African-American ancestry might more accurately consider themselves of mixed race and not simply as black. These are important topics for adoptive families yet they are not easy to introduce; this book offers an excellent gateway.

*Integrating a child’s birth heritage Once a child joins a family, his heritage is grafted to the entire family. It is not something that pertains only to him; the entire family honors and lives it. Beyond an occasional ethnic meal, trip to an exotic restaurant or occasional reading of a cultural fairy tale, families must immerse themselves as deeply as if it were their own natal heritage.

Transracial families must actively develop friendships and expose kids to mentors that share their race. Parents must foster a spirit of curiosity and learning around race. Recognize that a transracially adopted child’s experience as he journeys through the world will differ from yours. Moreover, because of the reality of white privilege, it will vary when you are with him and when he is on his own. Validate his experiences. Help him develop skills and tools to successfully navigate his challenges. Have conversations that empower. Don’t simply fan angry feelings. Avoid the fantasy of “color blindness.” Instead, foster color appreciation. Treating race as if it were irrelevant sends the hurtful message that it lacks value and importance.

Parents and children must walk in one another’s worlds and share the experience of being the minority. Teach kids how to handle prejudice. Explain your coping strategies. Be straightforward about the challenges. Acknowledge the reality of discrimination and work together to prepare them to face a world that notices the skin we are in. Read more of this earlier blog post.