Adoption Comes Straight from the Heart: A Book Review

by Luanne

I felt driven to review this book because the title made me so uncomfortable.   I can’t imagine saying to Marc or Marisha, when they were little ones, “Sit with Mom.  I want to read you this great book called My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You.”  I have never called them “my adopted children” and can’t imagine ever doing so.  They were–and still are, at 27 and 24–my kids.  And I am their mom.  My husband is their dad.  When the kids want to explain to people, they will say, “Yeah, I’m adopted.”  And that’s basically how I answer people, too.  I would never even think of saying, “This is my adopted son, Marc.”  So to say that the title put me off is an understatement.

Nevertheless, since the book was written by Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist and New York Times best-selling author, I wanted to see what was inside.  The book is one in a series of “birth order books.”  There are other volumes which deal with being firstborn, only child, middle child, and youngest child.  I will admit that the idea of adding in a book for the adopted child is a good idea, although children who have been adopted can be found in all “positions” within the family.

When I opened the book I discovered that the illustrations, by Dr. Leman’s son Kevin Leman II, are very clear, entertaining, and colorful.  They aren’t the sort of art which wins the Caldecott Medal, but they are pictures which illustrate well the story.  This book has a lot of text on every other page; it’s broken up by a full-page illustration opposite each one.

It turns out that I did enjoy the story and even teared up at one point–that was where Mama Bear tells her little boy, Panda, “‘You were born right here,’ and she touched her furry chest with her paw.”  The heartfelt sentiment and love between Panda and his mother and father is palpable.  That makes this book very worthwhile.

The story is a little specific.  Panda’s birth mother was a young panda — beautiful, kind, and loving.  The bears were able to meet Panda’s birth mother, so Mama can personally tell Panda about her.  Let’s face it, every adoption story is a little different.  So in books about adoption we are apt to get different stories.  The more stories kids read, the richer their minds and their lives.  That’s why I don’t consider the specificity a negative.  And there are other adoption books which are even more specific, if that is what you are looking for.  The question that lingers for me: if a child whose birth mother is unknown (and perhaps unknowable) is first exposed to this book or if it’s the only book he or she reads, how would that part of this story affect him or her?

The underlying plot situation is that Panda’s teacher asks her students to draw their family trees.  This is a common assignment in American schools, so it’s a very real issue for many children who have been adopted.  It’s handled well, even with a bit of an open ending, which keeps the book more appealing to a wider range of readers.

Whether this is a book about transracial adoptions or all adoptions, I think it depends on how you read it.  At one point, Mama Bear explains that Panda is a black and white bear and she and Papa are brown bears.  This can be seen as a racial metaphor.  However, many adoptees go through a period where they may feel different from the others in the family. Because the characters are animals, it frees up the child’s mind to read the book as it makes sense to him or her.

A very small note is that on the first page we learn the teacher’s name is Mrs. Racoonaroni.  This sounds humorous when read aloud, but to a beginning reader it looks daunting on the page.

All in all, the book makes a valuable contribution to the subject of adoption.   Because of its position in the series of “birth order” books, the author or editor titled the book My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You to be clear about the readership for which it aimed.  I’ve tried to come up with some other titles which would be more palatable to me and still fit within the series.  My Chosen Child? Um, I don’t think so. My Child (by Adoption)?  Not much better.  Maybe you have some good suggestions, but that doesn’t change the title on the cover.

Would I place this book on our family bookshelf?  Yes, but not without other books about adoption.  When a child asks me to read the book, I will put the emphasis on There’s No One Like You.


  1. Great review, Luanne. Very thoughtful about the pros and cons of this book.

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