By: Kim Stevens
Community Champions Network
North American Council for Adoptable Children (NACAC)
Parent through birth and through adoption

Personal Quote: I love the book - it is truly exceptional. The words and pictures beautifully tell a real story and answer so many questions that kids have. I also like the end page for parents - my experience having been that the adults are the worst offenders. I particularly like grandpa chasing his glass eyeball - what a hoot.

What Is Adoption? fills a gap in the adoption literature perfectly. This lovely children’s book is aimed at children who are not adopted (and their parents) but is equally recommended for adoptive families. Through words and pictures, What Is Adoption? gives a clear and respectful explanation about adoption and “family” in its many configurations.

Alex and Violet are friends who have grown up together. Based on the pictures and language, I would put the children at about 10 years old, and Alex has decided to share his life book with Violet. The book and brief conversation about adoption get Violet thinking. She has many questions for Alex, but her mom picks her up before she has a chance to ask them. Over the next few days, Violet’s mom, Alex and Alex’s mom answer Violet’s questions, painting the picture of adoption and family composition with a wide and loving brush.

Violet comes to understand that children can get adopted at all different ages and by a wide range of parents – from single folks to grandparents. There is one illustration of family photos that offers adults an opportunity to discuss race and culture, same sex couples, and more, simply through the art. In this way the authors and illustrator have provided a learning moment without losing those who may not use the book were it more direct about some of the more contentious issues in the adoption world.

She also learns that their grandparents raise some children, some are living in foster families and some have stepparents. Most importantly, Violet learns that the story of one’s family belongs to that person, to share or not as he feels fit.

In much the same way that real conversations about adoption evolve over time, What Is Adoption? takes Violet on a journey that we are sure will continue as she and Alex grow.

What I liked best about the book was the very matter-of-fact way the characters talked about adoption and the treatment of Alex and Violet as regular kids. So often in children’s books about adoption, the adopted child is somehow elevated to a “special” status. For Alex, being adopted is the way he got to his family; he is a normal, average boy. I wonder sometimes if the “special” messages that our younger adopted children get can contribute to the developmentally expected confusion they experience as tweens and teens. I would look forward to the book that Alex and Violet would write as older teens.