Juliet C. Bond, with illustrations by Dawn W. MajewskiPerspectives Press; $18.00
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Sam's Sister is a work of beauty. The author and the illustrator have done an impeccable job of representing the emotional aspects of open adoption from a child's perspective.
The U.S. has seen a steady rise in open adoptions in the last two decades. Many feel that its process-birthparents, adoptive parents, and children in an ongoing relationship-has improved adoption overall by promoting healthier emotional experiences for the families involved. Yet, open adoption continues to be somewhat mysterious to the general population. If open adoption is a challenge for adults to understand, what about the children involved? This question is eloquently tackled in Sam's Sister.
Rosa, the 5-year-old central character in the book, recognizes that her single mom is behaving differently. She worries, and when unable to get a smile from her, wonders if her mother is sick or has stopped loving her.
Her mother eventually tells Rosa that she has a new baby growing in her tummy, and when he's born, she won't be able to take care of him. She explains, in language that a child can understand, many of the reasons that birthmothers relinquish their newborn infants: There just isn't enough money or energy to provide the support and care a new baby needs. "Right now I couldn't provide those things for two children, even with your help," she tells Rosa.
While other stories might stop here, Sam's Sister is just beginning. Rosa's mom assures her that both she and the baby in her mother's tummy are loved. Rosa helps in making the open-adoption plan and meets the chosen parents for her soon-to-be baby brother. Her desire to maintain a relationship with her new brother is validated by everyone, and the adoptive parents encourage her involvement on many levels. When Sam is finally born, Rosa is able to visit him, reaffirming that she will always be Sam's sister.
This wonderful story is told with a clear, honest approach that avoids fantasy. The book will be an effective tool in helping young children understand the experiences and feelings that surround adoption.
Reviewed by Julie Jarrell Bailey, a reunited birthmother and an adoptive mother of three special-needs siblings, co-author of The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide, and co-founder of the North Carolina Center for Adoption Education.
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