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Review of books for siblings of international adoptees
Adrienne Ehlert Bashista
About a year ago my husband and I decided to adopt a child from Russia. We know lots of adopted kids; my five-year-old son Jacob's best friend is adopted as is his little sister. Our playgroup contains any number of adopted or foster children and we have several grown-up friends who are adoptees. Even our regular babysitter is adopted. For Jacob, then four, this was just another way to add to our family. The thought of a ready-made little brother or sister was helping all of us, perhaps especially Jacob, heal from the late-term miscarriage we'd suffered that winter. He was excited.
What Jacob didn't completely understand was why Mommy and Daddy had to go away for so long to get a sibling. It usually takes two trips to Russia to adopt, each trip a week, if not longer, and children Jacob's age don't usually accompany their parents. He was happy to stay with Grandma and Grandpa for a couple of weeks (he's spent so much time at my mom's B&B, the Rosemary House, that he now announces to the guests that he works there) but he'd never been apart from us that long before. I wanted to explain to him what it would be like for his father and me to travel to meet our new son, so I turned to our nightly ritual of story time to help show him what our journey would be like.
Seeds of Love, written by Mary E. Petertyl and illustrated by Jill Chambers, is the story of a little girl whose parents are traveling to an unnamed country, probably China, to adopt a new baby. The little girl in the story is confused about why her parents must go so far away to get a baby, and she's anxious about staying with her grandmother. After all, her grandmother doesn't know to cut the crusts off her toast and to turn her nightlight when she goes to bed. Her mother assures her that her grandma will know what to do, and presents the little girl with a pot of dirt in which she puts a couple of seeds. She instructs her daughter to water the pot every day they are apart. When the seeds start to sprout, that's when the girl will know her parents are coming home. As a picture book, neither the artwork nor the text of Seeds of Love are very impressive, but I would still suggest it as an important companion for any child whose parents are adopting a sibling internationally. The messages in this book, that adopting overseas is a recognized way of adding to your family and, when it does happen, that Mommy and Daddy will come back to you, are crucial for the child left behind to hear.
Over the Moon, written and illustrated by Karen Katz (one of my favorites) is the story of a couple anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new baby. Everyone gets in on the anticipation: Grandma, the fruit seller, and the little girl from next-door all ask when the baby is coming. "Soon," the parents answer, and then they get the call! The baby has been born in a far-away land, full of flowers and palm trees and birds, reachable "over the moon and through the night." Once they get the baby they are nervous as they've never cared for an infant, but before they know it they've spent their first day as a family and are looking forward to the next. Illustrated in Katz's brilliant and funky style, I highly recommend Over the Moon for families formed by international adoption, even those children who, like my younger son, were not adopted from a tropical location. She captures that anticipatory, excited feeling of waiting for "the call," perfectly.
Finally, I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, written by Rose Lewis and illustrated by Jane Dyer, tells the story of a single woman adopting a little girl from China. Both the narrative and the pictures are simple, but powerful, and even now, after reading it fifty times, I still tear up when the mother first meets her new daughter. Like Over the Moon, there is no sibling in this book, but the first time I read it to my son the value in reading him this story became clear: it carefully and completely illustrates the process of falling in love with the new child. This is something my son missed by remaining at home, but through reading this book he can get a taste of what it was like for us.
Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is a writer, librarian and mother of two, living near Silk Hope, NC. Her children's picture book about adopting from Russia, When I Met You, will be published in the spring of 2005 through her publishing company, DRT Press, www.drtpress.com. She plans a second book for 2006, Peter's Gift, about a little boy whose family is adopting a sibling from Eastern Europe.
Copyright 2004 Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, firstname.lastname@example.org. All rights reserved.
Also published online by Chatham Journal Weekly (Pittsboro NC), June 4, 2004,
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