It's a fact well known that babies and toddlers love to look at pictures of other little ones. I've read a number of theories about why this is, but I suspect it might just add up to the fact that babies of all races are stinkin' cute, and they captivate kids as much as they do (most) adults. Many books and movies have taken advantage of that to great effect. The recent film Babies is a prime example -- with no dialogue and very little footage of other family members, this movie manages to catch and hold your interest throughout. As we see the babies growing and changing, we notice a lot about culture and social norms, but we also notice just how adorable these kiddos are, every last one uniquely individual.
We watched Babies as a family not long after Sprout came into our family, and like us he was taken with it,. His most-requested book during that period was Global Babies, a vibrant pictorial board book that represents little ones from around the globe. I recommend this book highly to all adoptive parents, particularly those who are bringing home babies and toddlers -- it's a great way to express to a small child, especially one with whom you might not have a shared language, that people come in a rainbow of colors and that though they may look different, the kids your new son or daughter will play with are babies just like them. Sound like too much to read into a simple board book? Well maybe, but it's what I hope for, anyway.
Fast forward to now, when reading books together is a treasured part of our daily routine. Now, interspersed with books like Snow Day and What's Up, Duck are titles that share with Sprout the journey of our becoming a family through adoption. Though he's heard the word "adoption" since day one, and though we've told him his story many times already, we recognize that this isn't a concept he can yet grasp -- but still, we feel it's essential to introduce it now.
Having read and loved some of Shelley Rotner's earlier books (click here to read my review of Shades of People), I was thrilled to see her listed as one of the authors of I'm Adopted!. Rotner and frequent collaborator Sheila M. Kelly bring readers a sensitive yet factual look at adoption that's geared for the youngest readers. No easy feat, this, and yet Rotner and Kelly pull it off enormously well. First because of the format of their book -- those aforementioned pictures of babies, toddlers and kids of all races. Gorgeous shots abound, from the copper-skinned beauty on the cover to the adorable Asian, African American, Caucasian, Latino/a, and multiracial darlings inside. Serious cuteness here!
Then there's the text. You wouldn't think that adoption would be a topic you could boil down succintly and yet thoroughly, but Rotner and Kelly have nailed it. Their explanations are clear without being drawn out, and encompass all perspectives. I've seen great picture books that take the adoptive family's point of view, and equally well-done titles from the adoptee's angle. But this is the first picture book I've run across that addresses the birth mother's side of things, and discusses reasons that children may not have been able to stay with their family of origin. This is handled frankly but sensitively, and presents a great opportunity to open discussion about your particular situation.
International and domestic adoption are both mentioned as well, leading into a discussion about transracial families. "I don't look like my sister, but we like to do the same things" reads one bit of dialogue, and really, how much better could one sum up the essence of multiracial families? In a brief afterword, the authors address the fact that not all adoption situations can be adequately discussed in such a format; this sensitive recognition of the uniqueness of every adoptive family is reflected throughout the book, as the authors honor every child they depict.
I truly believe this title belongs on the shelf of every adoptive family and should be part of every school or library's collection. Bravo, Shelley Rotner and Sheila Kelly -- you've given us an adoption classic for the ages!
I'm Adopted! by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly, published by Holiday House
Sample quote: "Children are happy in their families, no matter where they were born. . . when they know they are cared for and loved."