PreS-Gr 2Samantha tells about her daily life and her memories, including being told that she was adopted and, later, being shown a book about how babies are born and learning that ``I did not grow inside Mommy's uterus. I grew in another woman's uterus'' and, still later, asking and being told how she was adopted (a closed adoption through an agency, placement at one week). Samantha is smiling in all of the 28 cartoon-style illustrations in which readers can see her face (except one of her as a week-old baby looking startled by the camera, one as a baby asleep, and one as a toddler intently rolling a ball). She is never sad, cranky, or even pensive. Her parents are always smiling. The pictures she draws are of smiling people. In the five-page introduction for parents, Cole says that ``The important thing is to create a loving atmosphere in which children's feelingsboth positive and negativecan be shared openly over time.'' However, not a single negative feeling is mentioned, or even hinted at in the book itself. This title will not encourage open sharing of feelings, and could even be harmful to adopted children by reinforcing the idea that they have to be cheerful, no matter what, in order to be accepted by their adoptive family. It holds the parents to an unreal standard too. Fred Rogers's Let's Talk about It: Adoption (Putnam, 1995), while vague on some points, does show a normal range of feelings. Betty Lifton's Tell Me a Real Adoption Story (Knopf, 1994) includes the birthmother as a person with feelings, not just a uterus.Nancy Schimmel, formerly of San Mateo County Library, CA
This picture book about adoption is much better than Fred Rogers' "Let's Talk about It: Adoption" (1995), which gives a warm view of families but isn't much help in explaining what adoption is and how it happens. And it doesn't have the obvious underlying agenda of Betty Lifton's "Tell Me a Real Adoption Story" (1994), with its strong plea for open adoption. Cole expertly negotiates a middle course that provides children with some excellent, age-appropriate background on adoption within the context of a slight but satisfying fictional profile of a happy, energetic child growing up in a loving home. Chambliss' sweet illustrations add warmth to little Samantha's telling, which follows her from birth--" before I was adopted, I was born" (a baby's birth is tastefully pictured)--to her placement by an adoption counselor and evolution into a child with a strong self-concept, shaped, in part, by two caring parents. In a several-page preface written for parents, Cole encourages grown-ups to communicate honestly with their children and explains what she hopes to achieve in the telling of her story. It's pretty safe to say that she achieves a great deal.