What Do You Think About the Premise of This Book?


Has anybody read this book? What do you think about the premise of it? The book answers the child’s questions by describing what this mom thinks makes her a real mom.

Described as “After an adoptive mother tells her daughter all the reasons that she is her ‘real mother,’ the young girl realizes that her mother is right, even though they do not look-alike.”  Is this a good way to handle this situation?



I finally got my hands on a copy of You’re Not My REAL Mother!, written by Molly Friedrich and illustrated by Christy Hale.  The book begins, as it appeared to do so in the initial portion I saw on amazon.com, with the little girl looking at herself in the mirror and saying, “You know, Mom, you’re not my real mother.”  The mother replies:  “What do you mean, my darling?  Of course I’m your real mother!”  The first sentence is a question, wondering what the meaning is behind the child’s question.  Without waiting for a response, she rushes headlong into telling her daughter all the reasons that she is her real mother.  The message behind her list is that a “real mother” gives day-to-day care and nurturing because she loves the child.

What I like about the book’s structure is that halfway through, the child rephrases her question.  She says, “I know you love me, Mom.  But why don’t you look like me?”  At this point the mother listens to the real question and explains about the child’s birth mother.  The illustrations depict a woman who looks like the little girl holding a baby, presumably the child herself.

After an explanation of the birth mother and why the girl’s mom is so grateful to her, which might be all a child so young can handle at this point, the daughter lists all the things, such as “kiss-smothering, cannonball-splashing, trampoline-jumping,” she appreciates about the mother.  All this leads up to a declaration that she is truly the girl’s “real mother.”

After reading the whole book, it seems that the book addresses some of the concerns I had from that initial and cursory view.  It gives voice to the child for the last half of the book.  While the book is fine as one of several books on adoption available to a child who is adopted, the book seems as if it’s designed to reassure the mother more than to investigate the thoughts and feelings of the child.


  1. There were quite a few very articulate reviews of this book found on the Amazon link you posted if you scroll to the end. My take, having not read the book and having read the reviews on Amazon and a few paragraph summaries of the book is that it isn’t actually about adoption. It sounds like this book focuses on how the adoptive mother convinces her daughter that she is her real mother. Instead of focusing on convincing the child the book could focus on exploring the child’s idea of what makes up a family and helping to delve into the ways individuals are bound together as family through more ways than just blood.

    I think this is a case of an author trying to simplify a very complex (yet understandable for a child) process in order to make it understandable to children but it ended up being patronizing.

    • Kumar, wow, I think you make such a powerful statement here: “a case of an author trying to simplify a very complex (yet understandable for a child) process in order to make it understandable to children.” I’ve been trying to find this book at the library with no luck. But I thought the reviews for the book made really good points. And I read those few pages they offer online. i do want to read it for myself. But I am disturbed that the mother doesn’t really listen to her child. It’s very human to respond that way. People hear things one way and don’t think to themselves “what is he or she really saying?” An adoptive mom might be apt to hear rejection of the mother in the child’s statement. And when she hears rejection, she might project that the child also feels some rejection by it. the mother wants to assure both of them that they are a real family. But what disturbs me the most is that the child’s initial comment comes from a place of reflection. I mean, she’s looking in the mirror! So the mother is ignoring what is really on the child’s mind. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Kumar!

  2. Lisa DeNike Ercolano says:

    I love the idea behind this book. If it had been available when my daughter (adopted from China as an infant) had been small enough for it, I definitely would have bought it and read it to her. My viewpoint is that anything that opens discussion with an adopted child about adoption issues — including who his or her “real” parents are! — is a good thing. I think it is extremely important (crucial, really) for adoptive parents to openly discuss a child’s adoption story/narrative from the very beginning, including discussing that the child was born to another woman and man and joined her current family via adoption. My feeling is that an adopted child will naturally have questions and want to know about his or her biological/genetic/”real” parents, and so it is the duty of the adoptive parent to demystify that by talking about it so the child knows, from the very start, that the topic is OK, natural, easy and not off limits. I have talked to many adopted people my own age and a great percentage of them were made to feel that it was not OK to bring up their questions about their “real” parents, because their adoptive parents either never discussed it or brushed their questions aside. A book like this encourages discussion.

    • Boy, Lisa, I so agree with you that children need to read adoption stories. Yes, they naturally have questions (who wouldn’t!!), and picture books can really help with that. i think for transracial families, picture books are even more important because of . . . the illustrations. In fact, I really think books about adoption shouldn’t be some specialty product that are hard to find at bookstores and libraries. I think they should be a part of libraries and even in the curriculum. Adoption is a part of our world, and all children should learn about it. Books are wonderful for encouraging discussion with children.
      All that said, I have some questions about this particular book. Or, at least, this book alone. If it’s supplemented with other picture books about adoption, that’s one thing. But if this is the book a parent brings home for their child or the book a well-meaning friend gives to a new parent, I have serious concerns. As I mentioned to Kumar, I am trying to get a copy of this book to read so I can see for myself. But from the initial pages on Amazon and the great reviews people have written, it seems that this book ignores what is at heart behind the child’s comment on the first page. The child is looking in a mirror and makes a statement that she herself has pieced together FROM looking in the mirror. Instead of questioning the child in order to learn what she means, the mother just plows forward with all the mother stuff. It’s not a very thoughtful perspective. the most positive thing it does besides encouraging potential discussion (which all parents are not going to do, let’s face it) is show the child that the mother does all these things because she wants to be a good mother. It also might be helpful for the mother herself because it reaffirms to her that she’s being a good mom. But she would be a better mom if she first listened to her daughter. I will keep trying to find the book and chime in later after I can read the whole thing.

  3. Lisa DeNike Ercolano says:

    Luanne, what you say makes a great deal of sense — and is definitely sensitive to the child’s perspective. I stand corrected, though I know you weren’t trying to correct me! I admit that I tend to be overzealous at times about how important it is to talk to our adopted children honestly about adoption, especially to our transracially adopted kids. I worked in adoption for a few years and had a few prospective parents adopting from China who told me, bluntly, that their child wouldn’t be Chinese: she would be American. I tried to emphasize that she would be American, certainly, but would know she was Asian/Chinese every time she looked in the mirror. I was told that no, it wasn’t healthy for the child to identify with her Asian roots. I so strongly disagree. I also marveled/cringed/laughed (a whole plethora of emotions, I guess!) when my own Asian daughter was small and people would say “Are you going to tell her she is adopted?”

    • Sorry, I am trying to write and laugh at the same time. And since I can’t stop laughing, I can’t write much here. What did you decide, Lisa? Did you decide to tell her? LOL.

      • Luanne, I certainly agree that it is very unfortunate that the mother does not respond to the child’s reflections. Additionally, I am also troubled by this being considered a book that helps parents and children “confront” the “adoption question”. It troubles because not only does it no respond to the child, but furthermore it creates the illusion to the parent and the child (although probably less aware) that he or she has adequately addressed the child’s curiosity or concern about feeling different than their parent because they do not physically resemble each other.

        Just bringing up this question has made me think much more significantly about differing experiences with adoption that adoptive parents have vs. adoption professions vs. those who have been adopted.

  4. I’m on the waitlist for the book. I’ll review it when I get it, as well as some other picture books about adoption.

  5. Reblogged this on Don't We Look Alike?.

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