Thursday, September 6, 2012

Picture Book Review - My Family is Forever by Nancy Carlson

As a bookseller, one of the titles I remember seeing come across my counter with particular frequency was Nancy Carlson's I Like Me!. There's something about this title - its bright pink cover, and that exuberantly happy pig dressed in a tutu-esque princess dress that just jumps right out at you. Whenever someone asked for something to help bolster a child's self-esteem, this was the first title that popped into my head, and I can't be alone because this one's got real staying power. Published in the late 1980s, I Like Me! remains popular - a quick check of our library catalog as I'm typing this post reveals that our copies are all checked out.

In a similar vein, Carlson's picture book My Family is Forever aims to bolster the self-esteem and identity of children who have been adopted. Told from the point of view of a young Asian girl (who I'm guessing is Korean, based on the author's note), the book opens up the topic of transracial families right away. The narrator's friend Jeffrey "has his mom's red hair and his dad's big ears", while she herself looks "just like. . . me! (And I'm pretty cute.)". She explains that this is because her family was formed by adoption - I appreciate that this is dealt with matter-of-factly, and that adoption is discussed as one of many ways families are formed.

Our heroine goes on to discuss all the ways she's similar to her adoptive parents, in their interests and talents and ways they enjoy spending their time. But she also wonders about her birth parents. Carlson deals with this head-on, as the girl wonders if she favors certain members of her birth family in certain ways. While it's clear that she has a connection to her past, one that her parents have discussed and which she is encouraged to embrace, she's also decidedly an important member of her adoptive family. A spread depicting a holiday with the extended family shows plenty of diversity in  hair and skin colors, as well as ages. Everyone is part of this group, it's clear, and the bonds that tie the family together are truly forever.

Striking a careful balance, Carlson honors the protagonist's first family while finding lots of ways to celebrate the fact that the girl now has a forever family that clearly adores her. My Family is Forever is a cheerful, upbeat discussion-starter that adoptive families will be glad to share with even the youngest child. An excellent choice for families of all sorts!

My Family is Forever by Nancy Carlson, published by Viking
Ages 3-8
Source: Library
Sample: "Being a family means helping each other out. / We love each other in good times, and we love each other even when things don't go quite right."

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