Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Read It So You Don't Have To II

OK, here's another in our continuing series of children's books about adoption that are best avoided! If you're like me, you've probably bought a lot of your adoption-themed books sight unseen -- bookstores don't necessarily have a large selection in this category, so you go on-line. And sometimes you hit a real clinker.

This book falls into this category for me. I bought it without an opportunity to read it, but it's a Little Golden Book and ranked #5 on Amazon.com for children's books about adoption. How bad could it be?! How about completely TERRIBLE?!

The book: A Blessing From Above

Momma-Roo is a kangaroo with an empty pouch, and she prays for a child. One day as she rests under a willow tree she notices a nest crowded with eggs. The birds hatch, and the nest gets even more crowded. Then, as the "last and littlest" bluebird hatches, he was "bumped from the nest and falling down, down, down, straight into Momma-Roo's pouch!"

So, baby bird falls from nest -- how does mama bird react?
The mother bluebird looked down and saw her littlest one. She knew her nest was not big enough for all her chicks. It made her happy to see her baby bluebird in such a warm, cuddly place.
Aackk!! Well, that's completely dismissive of birth parents, isn't it? Mama bird comes across as negligent and uncaring, experiencing no pain at the loss of her child. And this, despite a dedication to all birth mothers (OK, the dedication is another problem, filled with gift imagery, and saying birth mothers are "an instrument of God's love.") Mama bird isn't even important enough to the story to be given a name, and isn't mentioned again after her "gift" is received by Momma-Roo (who, btw, is Momma-Roo even when she has no kids!).

The book is clearly written from the point of view of the adoptive parent; there's nothing that addresses the feelings of the adoptee. In fact, the adoptee is merely a passive object, dropped from above, who happily chirps, "Hello, Mommy," when he finds himself in Momma-Roo's pouch (yeah, that's how gotcha moment was with each of my kids!). Baby bird is barely important enough to be given a name -- Momma-Roo calls her "Little One."

I suppose there's one plus for the book -- it illustrates a single-parent adoption. But there are many others that do this, and don't have the baggage this book has. And if my child came across the book, I'd talk about the lack of choice on the part of baby bird and use it as a transition to "how do you think that would make the bird feel? how does it make you feel?" (You can sometimes find a teachable moment even in a bad book!).

FYI the book clearly has a religious cast, opening with a passage from Psalm 127: "Children are a gift from God; they are His reward." The final passage from Ephesians 1:5 reads, "In love he destined us for adoption to himself [dot dot dot]. The dot-dot-dot made me curious, so I went looking for the omission -- "through Jesus Christ." So not just a religious cast, but a specifically Christian cast. (We'll leave aside the discussion about how every reference to adoption in the Bible isn't necessarily a reference to adoption as humans practice it, and the discussion about the controverted meaning of God's will in the adoption triad -- each of those topics is deserving of a post of its own!).

A Blessing From Above is not a blessing, it's a curse! It gets two thumbs down.

So does anyone want to contributae to the "I Read It So You Don't Have To" series? Email me the title of other adoption books for kids that strike you as problematic. If it's not something I have or can get, I might ask you for more details, but I won't make you write the bad review unless you want to!

9 comments:

SB said...

I love Grace Lin's books, but I just can't get past the "The Red Thread Fairy Tale" book of hers. I just don't see the birthfamily in this book at all. When I borrowed it from the library and read it to my very young daughther I "inserted" a "birth family" into the story because I couldn't read it as is. Needless to say I won't be buying it. So sad, because we have so many of her other books.

a Tonggu Momma said...

I love, love, love this idea! And I hated Blessings From Above. Other suggestions:

The Red Thread Fairy Tale (sorry Ms. Lin, I usually love you)
You're Not My REAL Mother
Chinese Eyes
Owl Cat
Forever Fingerprints

I could go on and on. Then again, I'm pretty picky.

Wendy said...

I have so much to say on this topic, but I am exhausted.
I do want to add another book to the list given to us by our adoption agency!

Happy Adoption Day! YUCK!

Basically, it provides the child the sense that they are a charity case rescued by their AP's. NO mention of ANY life (except one that is "tattered and torn") prior to the adoptive family. I notified my agency with my concerns, but found out months later they were still sending it as a gift to the children once home.

Mahmee said...

Good grief!....sounds like a real 'winner'. I love your 'I read it so you don't have to' posts. I am always doing a lot of research on adoption-related (and other topics) books for our daughter. I'm pretty picky too and happy to say we haven't invested any money into any of the books mentioned so far. I just ordered and received 'Every year on your birthday', 'Motherbridge of love' and 'Three names of me' but, I haven't had a chance to read them yet. So, we'll see if I have something to add here or not.
Thanks!
M.

Lynne said...

Tonggu Momma - What did you not like about "You're Not My REAL Mother"? I think it's a good book for when you're child is exposed to that question / statement - especially from people with no knowledge of adoption (like the author of Owlcat).

A friend recommended my child read "You're not my REAL Mother" after many questions about "who is the real mom." It brought about much discussion such as "Yes, I am real and yes your birth mother is real, too." She seemed more relaxed and understanding of the "real mom" issue after that book.

SB said...

Slightly off topic, but the image of the baby wrapped in pink in front of the orphanage in the "Three Names of Me" book brought tears to my eyes. All I can see is my daughter in that image. My daughter loves this book and pictures, but I simplfy the language for her as she is still too young to sit through the story as written.

Anonymous said...

I don't like "Families Are Forever" by Craig Sherman. I don't have it anymore, but if I recall correctly the baby in the story seems overly happy when first meeting her adoptive parents. Very unrealistic. (Nine out of ten reviewers on Amazon love this book... I share the sentiments of the one negative reviewer.)

Happy Adoption Day is based on a song by John McCutcheon, who I really like, so I guess I am biased. It is a lot better if you sing, rather than read it! The "tattered and torn" part doesn't bother me. I don't think it implies rescue, but I can see how you could interpret it that way.

Not every book is going to reflect the full spectrum of feelings and experiences that adoption entails. That's why it's good to have a variety of them.

Sue (aka anonymous)

Heather said...

Heh, I haaaaaaaated "You're Not My REAL Mother."

malinda said...

Tonggu Momma & Heather,

I agree with your lists of must-not-reads, mostly! But I'm the "friend" who recommended "You're Not My REAL Mother" to Lynne! It's not one of my favorites, but I think it does help kids who are getting the "is she your real mom" question at school. Lynne's daughter was, so that's why I suggested it.

If I had written the book I would have emphasized that both moms were "real," but I can do that when reading it to my kids.

I have the same reaction to "Chinese Eyes" -- it serves a purpose, but if I had been writing it, I would have taken it in a different direction!