Family of titles provides good answers to children's questions about adoption


June 24, 1994|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

As an adoptive parent, I've bought, borrowed, checked out or at least leafed through just about every children's book that touches on the subject of adoption.

I never considered doing a column on them, though, because just about every adoptive family I know is plugged into a network of friends, parents' organizations and agencies that formally and informally circulates lists of the best titles out there.

Then a friend from work came over for a party. It was the first time his kids had met my daughter, who is East Indian, and on their way home they asked about adoption.

So it hit me: Even though adoptive families are familiar with many of the following books, many others touched by adoption might want to be introduced to a title or two.

* "Tell Me a Real Adoption Story," by Betty Jean Lifton, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola (Knopf, $13, 40 pages, ages 4-8) is a new book that is quickly earning a place among the classics in the field. Betty Jean Lifton is an adoptee who has written adult books on the psychology of adoption and has worked as an adoption counselor.

Through a dialogue between child and mother, she tells the story of an open adoption -- the parents meet the birthmother and visit her in the hospital before taking the baby home, though there is little contact afterward -- and addresses questions all kids have about adoption.

Where is my other mommy now?

I'm not sure.

I wonder if she ever thinks of me.

I'll bet she does. Do you ever think about her?

Sometimes. Why couldn't she take care of me?

She wanted to. But it wasn't possible for her or your other daddy.

Why not?

Maybe someday you can ask her.

On the back cover, the author suggests ways parents can use this story as a starting point to tell their own child's story. Most important, it lets adoptees know that it's OK to ask questions, even when their parents don't have all the answers.

* "Adoption Is for Always," by Linda Walvoord Girard, illustrations by Judith Friedman (Albert Whitman & Company, $4.95, 32 pages, ages 5-9) shows the denial, anger and sadness that a young girl named Celia works her way through when she's old enough to grasp what being adopted means.

She wants only one mommy and daddy. Being adopted makes her feel different. She wonders why her birthparents didn't keep her -- was she a bad baby, or an ugly one? She acts out, and when her mother disciplines her, Celia yells: "I don't like you. You're not beautiful like my real mommy."

Celia's parents handle it all perfectly, reassuring her that her birthparents must have loved her, that babies who are placed for adoption have done nothing wrong and that she will be their daughter forever, no matter what.

* "Susan and Gordon Adopt a Baby," based on Sesame Street television scripts by Judy Freudberg and Tony Geiss, illustrated by Joe Mathieu (Random House, $5.99, 22 pages, ages 2-6) is back in print, much to the delight of parents and preschool teachers. In addition to introducing the subject of adoption, it deals with an older sibling's rivalry with a new arrival.

* "Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies," by Ann Turner, pictures by James Graham Hale (HarperTrophy paperback, $4.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8) is about a boy of about 2 who leaves an orphanage in Asia and is escorted on a plane to America, where he meets his mom and dad at the airport. The pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are as gentle as the text.

* "Abby" by Jeannette Caines, pictures by Steven Kellogg (Harper Trophy, $4.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8) stars an African-American family that includes Abby, who was adopted when she was 1. Abby loves looking at her baby book, and when her older brother doesn't have time to read it with her, she cries. Sorry that he hurt her feelings, Kevin shares the book, and plenty of affection, with his little sister.

* "A Forever Family: A Child's Story about Adoption," story and pictures by Roslyn Banish, with Jennifer Jordan-Wong (Harper, $4.95, 44 pages, ages 5-8) is a wonderful first-person account by Ms. Jordan-Wong, who was adopted when she was 7. In simple words accompanied by plenty of black-and-white photos, she talks of her two foster families and her new, permanent, extended family.

* "How It Feels to Be Adopted," by Jill Krementz (Knopf paperback, $7.95, 107 pages, ages 10 and up) is one of Ms. Krementz's finest efforts. She gets 19 boys and girls, ages 8 to 16, to open up in essays about their frustration and anger, about the fears and dreams that adoptees share. When your teen-agers stop talking to you, slip them this book and maybe they won't feel so alone.

These and plenty of other adoption books are available by mail through various sources, including:

* Tapestry Books of Ringoes, N.J., puts out an adoption book catalog that is one of the most extensive around. To order a free copy, call (800) 765-2367.

* The Heritage Key catalog specializes in multicultural books and toys, but also has a section on adoption books. For a copy, write The Heritage Key Inc., 6102 E. Mescal, Scottsdale, Ariz. 85254 or call (602) 483-3313.

* Families Adopting Children Everywhere (FACE) includes an order form for dozens of books at the back of its magazine, FACE Facts. For information, call (410) 488-2656 or write: FACE Inc., P.O. Box 28058, Northwood Station, Baltimore 21239.

* OURS: The Magazine of Adoptive Families also has an impressive mail-order selection at the back of each issue. Call Adoptive Families of America at (800) 372-3300 for a catalog of books and other parenting resources, a free how-to-adopt guide and copy of OURS -- all free.

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