Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Adoption Book Reviews: Books for Adults and Children
The following are some adoption books that I checked out from the library. There are many other adoption books that I would like to purchase and check out that are not listed here. As I get other books I will review those.

One thing I found was that I was biased toward newer books. I had preconceived ideas that they were better before even opening them- and lo and behold- most were. So, I am not sure if this is because they REALLY were, or because my bias made me think that.

Parent Books:

The Russian Adoption Handbook by John McClean 2004 O.K. this book is essential for anyone adopting from Russia. Although the organization could be improved upon, I have found this book to be the most important book in my adoption process thus far. It tells you what to do next when you feel a roadblock coming on. It answers your questions and leads you by the hand from start to finish. Thumbs up.

The Adoption Life Cycle by Elinor B. Rosenberg 1992 I voted a thumbs down for this book. Not only because it smelled musty, but because her underlining feelings were that adoption is unnatural and fails to meet the needs of all parties involved, so here is what you can do to make the best out of a bad situation.

Making Sense of Adoption by Lois Ruskai Melina 1989. O.K. I know that this book is ancient history because it was written the year I graduated from high school, but it is still a useful book, so thumbs up. The book is basically a resource to help you talk to your child about adoption and the issues that surround it at different stages in his or her life. It stresses the rights of the child to know the truth about who they are, and how they joined their current family right from the start.

Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff 1997 Thumbs up to this engaging short read. It follows the story of a domestic adoption of a child from a different race. Even though this may or may not be your story, what makes it universally appealing, besides the great flow of the story, are the “secret thoughts of the adoptive mother”. She says things in the book that all adoptive parents probably think, but are afraid to say out loud or even think too loudly. It is a comforting book in that regard and helps calm fears and anxieties.

Keys to Parenting an Adopted Child by Kathy Lancaster 1996 I had to vote thumbs down on this book because although there was a lot of great topics, such as; adoption successes, raising well-adjusted children, issues for your child, and special risk issues- the solutions were just too general and vague. There wasn’t enough concrete and useful information.

Attaching in Adoption by Deborah D. Gray 2002 I realize that this book has been highly praised and a lot of people love it, but I have to give it a thumbs down because I found it to be too technical. There was too much explaining about what is attachment disorder than what to do about it. Little stories of various case scenarios is supposed to be the way you are to decipher what to do in your specific case. I found, however; that it was tedious to wade through all of the stories that I may or may not relate to. Too many anecdotal stories about other people’s adoptions made me discard this book.

Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory C. Keck 2002 A big thumbs up here. It was engaging to read and filled with practical and useful information for adopting children who have been living in orphanages- or any child with a hurtful past. A whole chapter is devoted to attachment activities that are great ideas- not the same general stuff repeated from other sources – but new fresh ideas. I am talking pages and pages of ideas. I loved this whole book. Highly recommended.

Toddler Adoption- The Weaver’s Craft
by Mary Hopkins-Best (1997)If you are adopting a toddler (especially internationally) this is an essential book to read. I heard before I read it that it is a really hard book to read – that it might scare you out of adopting. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. The book was interesting, but not compelling. I mean I didn’t just devour it, but I wanted to read it and I got a lot out of it. I think this book is important because it addresses issues such as what to expect of your toddler when he or she comes home with you. There is a little too much information about what the caregivers should do. I doubt the orphanage caregivers will be reading this book. However, there is also a lot of good information for the parents about understanding the child’s transition (from orphanage to home), your child’s development, and the child’s grief, attachment, managing your child’s behavior and taking care of yourself. There are some practical useful suggestions in here. I liked it because it was toddler specific and not too general. My copy has been thoroughly read and underlined throughout. I learned a lot with this one. Thumbs up.

Yes, You Can Adopt! by Richard Mintzer (2003) If you want to try out this book, I recommend checking it out from the library, rather than purchasing it because it is too general- unless you have just decided that you want to adopt and you want to read about every possible path. However, if you know what type of adoption you are going for, or if you are along the process at all than this is not for you. It gives a basic overview about making the adoption decision, preparing for adoption, the homestudy, domestic, independent and international adoption choices. It also touches generally on adoption in the media, adoption fraud, open adoption, adopted & biological children, relative adoption, gay & lesbian adoption, single parent adoption, financing your adoption, positive adoption language, sharing information about your adoption and adoptees: understanding adoption. Overall I felt like the book was easy to read and understand with some good information, but was too general and broad for me to get much out of it. For an overview book though I give it a thumbs up.

The Post-Adoption Blues by Karen J. Foli and John R. Thompson (2004)I wanted to like this book more than I did because I think there is a big need for such a book. What is great about this book is that it talks about feelings (secret feelings) that you may have about your adoption, that you don’t feel you can express- and if you do have these feelings, to realize that you are normal and not alone. The message also comes across that you need to have realistic expectations of yourself. This book could be a God-send to someone who is going through post-adoption depression, which according to this book is quite a large percentage of adoptive parents. It might speak to your hurting soul. However, it won’t give you a whole lot of advice about what to do about it besides seeking professional help. However, there is a personal assessment you can take of yourself if you think you have the post-adoption blues in chapter 13 and in chapters 14 and 15 there are some coping strategies and ways to help you identify the problems. I found those chapters to be potentially the most useful. Thumbs up.

The Complete Adoption Book by Laura Beauvais-Godwin and Ramond Godwind (2005)This book says that it is a complete guide, and that is the biggest problem with it. It is just too huge and general. I found only two chapters that applied to my personal situation and the information was too general to be worth anything. This book is even more general than Yes! You can adopt. I say, skip this one. If you want an overview get the Yes! You can adopt book. Thumbs down.

The Family of Adoption by Joyce Maguire Pavao (2005) This book has some interesting adoption stories (scenarios). She tells stories to teach points about adoption. The stories are from all different types of situations. I read some of them, but did not feel compelled to read them all. Overall I didn't really like it. Thumbs down.

Becoming a Family by Lark Eshleman (2003) This was the first book that I read after deciding on adoption and I loved it. It is a short book with lots of practical advice. I read the whole thing very quickly and took lots of notes. The book focuses on attachment, preparing to bring your child home and getting the proper health care, school services and therapy that may be required for your child. The book is assuming you are adopting a baby or toddler. Thumbs up.

Raising Adopted Children
by Lois Ruskai Melina (1998) This book is not specific and refers to all adopted children. It is not about taking you down the path to adoption; it is about raising your adopted child. The book addresses- transitioning the child into the family and attachment issues, talking about adoption with your child, how adoption affects the family, adoption risks, behavior issues, cultural identity, etc. However, there were a lot of chapters that I felt didn’t apply to everyone who has adopted children (i.e. chapters on special needs, racism, contact with birth parents, and special situations). For this reason I would recommend you check this out from a library if you are interested in it, rather than purchase it so you can read just the chapters that fit your child. Overall it is a high quality book with useful information. Thumbs up (a little reluctant with this vote)

Children’s Books: (All of the children books were read to my 7 year-old son, so I could get his reaction as well)

Did My First Mother Love Me? by Kathryn Ann Miller 1994. I voted thumbs up for this book because it is very readable, engaging and comforting. It is interesting right away even for a young child. However, the book revolves around a letter written by the birth mother to her child of how much she loved the child and wanted the best for her, but couldn’t take care of her. So, if you know that the reality of this story is WAY off base for your child, I would skip this one.

Emma’s Yucky Brother by Jean Little 2001.Thumbs down for this book because there was too much about brothers being pests, the misbehavior of the adopted child – he calls his sister Yucky Emma. I just felt the whole story was negative, but then it had one page- the last page where everyone is happy and gets along. NEXT.

The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo 2002. Thumbs down on this book because it bored my seven-year-old and I to tears. It is written in beautiful poetry form that went way above my 7 year- old’s head. It is also quite lengthy. However, I have to admit that when I got to the page where they opened the treasure chest and found the baby washed up on the shore, I had to choke back some tears. It is also beautifully illustrated.

Over the Moon by Karen Katz 1997. Thumbs up for this story about an interracial, international adoption from a tropical place. The story is entertaining and colorful. However, your Russian child might not relate exactly.

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis 1996. Thumbs up for this adoption story. Illustrations are fun. Writing is clever and gets to the point. Expresses well the emotions of the adoptive parents. Shows parents flying on a plane to meet child. It does refer to how the mother couldn’t grow a baby in her tummy- which may or may not apply to you. It also refers to the child being picked up from a hospital and being an infant, but the birthmother is not pictured.

Beginnings by Virginia Kroll I have to say thumbs down to this story that contains several short stories about how different families came to be- all of them but one- are an adoption situation. Overall I found it too long and wordy. The stories were too specific for that child, so I doubt anyone could totally relate to any of the stories.

Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies by Ann Turner 1990. I am only giving this a thumbs down because the story is about a child traveling from a tropical place to the adoptive parents. I like that it comes from the perspective of the child and talks about his fears flying in the plane to meet his new parents, but I have never heard of this arrangement. How convenient- the parents just wait at home while their child is personally delivered to them. Does this ever happen in the adoption world? Other than that, this is a great book- especially the bonding time between the parents and child after they are united.

When I Met You- A Story of Russian Adoption by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista
Of course I am going to love this story of a little girl adopted from Russia because it is my dream story. It is a treasure for parents who have adopted from Eastern Europe and for all adoptive parents who want to share a story that illustrates the beauty of international adoption. The book is simple to understand even for a small child, but interesting enough for an older child. The pictures and words are comforting and moving. It gently tells the story of a child transitioning from an orphanage setting to a family setting. It shows how the child has grown and blossomed from the love of her family. You feel the joy of the parents welcoming her into their home and hearts. It also ties in the value and importance of the child’s culture and beginnings. At the end of the book there is a fun little activity where the child can find images (such as a butterfly) that were in the story and say the word in English and Russian. This book is a must have. It will be treasured for many years by this family. Big thumbs up for this one. Ms. Bashista also has a newer Russian adoption book out called: Mishka

Mommy Far, Mommy Near by Carol Antoinette Peacock
This is the type of book to check out at the library. It is too long to read over and over, but worth a look. The book starts out great. It describes a young girl adopted from China. The story is told by the child. She describes herself in a positive way. Her high self-esteem shines through. She describes the times she spends with her mom looking at her life book and doing some attachment activities. She also explains in a comforting way about how she came into the family. She pretends to talk to her birth mom on the phone and tells her how happy she is in her new home and with her new family. The only thing I didn’t like about it is that it states the reason the child was put up for adoption was because China made a rule that each family could only have one child. Her mother couldn’t keep her because she already had a child. She wanted to, but was not allowed. The only problem with this is since there isn’t an equivalent “rule” in other countries it might make your child feel like the birth parents could have kept him or her and they might consequently feel sad. However, the book has some really good parts. Perhaps a reader could just skip over the parts that don't fit or change it slightly. A really cute part is when the girl adopts her own babies (stuffed animals). It also deals with racial differences within the family in an understanding way.

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
The thing I like about this book is that even though Choco is a boy bird, the fact that he is a bird makes the story seem genderless, so it is automatically appealing to boys and girls. This is a good book for kids who are feeling like they don’t quite fit in to their new family based on appearance. The book starts off as he starts walking around looking for a mother (he seems to have lost his). He tries to find a mother that has at least one characteristic trait as him (i.e. we are both yellow). However, he ends up with Mrs. Bear as his new mother who doesn’t have any physical characteristics as him. Mrs. Bear has one thing the others don’t: she loves Choco. The two spend some fun times together. When Mrs. Bear brings Choco home for the first time he finds that she has other children as well, all of which are different (a hippo, piggy and alligator). Despite these differences they all love each other very much. I think all kids could benefit from this book with its teachings of love and acceptance of differences.

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis
I like how this book starts out “Once upon a time…” like a fairy tale. The book flows well and presents a clear message. It is easy to understand and says a lot in a few words. Unlike When I Met You and Mommy Far, Mommy Near that show young children as their main subject (while looking back over their lives), this book shows the child as an older infant the whole time. This may or may not appeal to you. The story takes you through the whole international adoption process (China) in an abbreviated manner with carefully chosen, thoughtful words. It is tender without being mushy. The illustrations are wonderful and I especially like the Chinese character for love on the last page. No matter where you are adopting from, this book shows the basic process and love of an adoptive family. This book is a keeper.

If you have read other adoption books that you recommend please suggest them, or if you have read any of the above books and agree or disagree with my review please speak up. Other than that, all other comments are welcome.

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Blogger Margaret said...
I know it doesn't apply to everyone else in our little bloggy group -- but just in case there are single lurkers out there -- Adopting On Your Own by Lee Varon has been an excellent resource for me.

(Great post, btw, Jen.)

Anonymous Betsy said...
Cool! I've been looking for a good adoptive parent book to read so I'll check out your list. It doesn't look like you've found many good (i.e. perfect) children's books. Let us know if you find more.

Anonymous Leggy said...
Great list- and helpful to have someone give me the quick & dirty version re: what to spend my time on.

Love you like Crazy Cakes is supposed to be another good one- its either Korean or Chinese adoption, but I think the international/cultural issues are pretty universal.

I too was annoyed re: "tell me again about the night I was born" and the "mommy couldn't grow a baby in her tummy." That's the only adoption book I have and I've tried reading it to my son, but he's just way more interested in adventure stories than some yucky story about babies. Maybe if/when we get to that point re: going on a plane to pick up a new sister, he'll be more interested.

Blogger jeneflower said...
Thanks for the comments. I have to vote thumbs down to the poor editing job I did. I went through and tried to correct some grammar and punctuation errors. This is what happens when I throw something up without really reading it through.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Great to see your reviews!!

The Through the Moon book, Korean and Guatemalan adoptions, you have the option of the child being escorted homme. Many chose that route. Do you think that was what the book was depicting?

The debra gray book...I was at a seiminar of hers. She said she wrote the entire book for the chapter on how to tell your chid's emotional age and how to treat the child that way (rather than the chronological age). Of course, you can't write a one chapter book. She is waaaay more interesting in real life than in the book! I agree!

Building the Bonds of Attachment is a MUST READ in my opinion. I think its somewhat like the Hurt Child book?

My all time favorite adoption book is: The Waiting Child. It changed my life while I was waiting and waiting to adopt.(it has a happy ending if you are wondering.)

Blogger Journey Mama said...
I know this doesn't really apply to the kind of books you're looking for, but I've always loved the book, The Family Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss because she adopted mixed race kids when nobody would, and because I'd like to adopt mixed race kids someday. (My own are mixed race) The language about racial issues is a little old, but what can you expect in the 40's?

Blogger Elle said...
"Through Moon and Stars" could be about an Indian adoption. Some agencies have programs where the child is escorted home. So yes, it does happen.

I'll have to give "The Hurt Child" a look. I had also heard "Building the Bonds of Attachment" is an excellent resource.

For those just starting out two storys are "The Russian Word for Snow" and "The Baby Boat." I give "The Russian Word for Snow" an overall thumbs down on telling what the process is like. But it is worth reading. It tells you exactly what NOT to do in the adoption process.

"The Baby Boat" is by the woman who wrote "Mermaids." It is about a Lithuanian adoption and is an interesting story. Again, not how the process should really go, but it is nice to hear other family perspectives.

Blogger Starfish said...
Great reference! I am particularly interested in the children's books. For some reason I can't bring myself to read parenting books...I just want to roll with it as it comes...but it's different for me since I will be adopting a newborn. Thanks!

Blogger Debbie said...
Great list Jen. Now I know which ones to start with.
Have you come across this one yet: Two Little Girls: A Memoir of Adoption by Theresa Reid? It's her story abouting adopting from Eastern Europe. I am thinking about reading this one.

Anonymous Mary said...
I agree with Elle on "Th Russian Word for Snow"...what not to do, but a good read.

We have a section on our blog for books on adoption both for you & M and for the kids. Check it out.

Blogger kate said...
I just found your blog. It's great to see another reader! I like the memoirs as well as the informational books. I think "Two Little Girls", "The Russian Word for Snow" and "The Pumpkin Patch" are good choices. (Although I hope the two little girls don't read "Two Little Girls" as it's a little harsh...)

Anyone else reading these? I think "Adopting Alyosha" might be next... I like to alternate these with the non-fiction choices.

kate (k8c)

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