Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Picture Book Review - My Mei Mei by Ed Young

When you're preparing to add a member to your family through adoption, there's a lot of getting ready to do. Preparing a room, checking out daycares or schools, babyproofing (or big kid-proofing), picking a pediatrician -- there are a million little details. If you have other children in the home, a big part of the preparations is explaining the adoption process, and what it will feel like when their new sibling joins the household.

Luckily there are a lot of great picture books to facilitate these discussions, and My Mei Mei by Ed Young is one of them. Young, himself an adoptive dad, was motivated to write and illustrate this picture book through his own experience adding a second daughter from China. Young's firsthand knowledge of this situation shines through on every page.

Antonia desperately wants a mei mei (little sister) to play and share secrets with. She plays at being jieh-jieh (big sister) and she just knows she'll be a really good one. And then the day finally arrives, and the family travels to China to bring Mei Mei home. Antonia is so excited! But Mei Mei turns out to be nothing like Antonia thinks she would be, and soon jealousy is creeping in. Will the sisters ever get used to each other? Will Antonia like being a big sister after all?

Young is not only an adoptive dad, he's also a Caldecott medalist, and his talents bring this very personal story to life. The colors he uses are vibrant and vivid, emphasizing the emotional journey that all the family members move through. And as the girls' relationship changes, so does the perspective, and soon the two are totally intertwined.

Whether you're bringing home a child through international adoption, foster care, or having a birth child, there's a lot here to help ease the transition from only child to older sibling. Sharing Young's gentle tale as a family is an excellent way to open a discussion about life changes or to remember another child's adoption story. A beautiful book, beautifully told!

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