A Nearly Beautiful Tale of Adoption: Review of “Over the Moon”

by Luanne

What beautiful pages!  Over the Moon, written and illustrated by Karen Katz, is a lovely tale of adoption for very young children.

The story is presented with a sense of fantasy, giving it a fairy tale quality.  The night after the new baby is born, a woman and her husband who are “far away” from the baby both have dreams of the same baby.  They know that this is their child and travel a long distance, “over the moon and through the night,” to get to their baby.  The mode of transportation is real–a giant airplane.  This blend of fantasy and reality places the notion of adoption into a larger mythological structure and connects with the child’s individual story of adoption.

Likewise, in the illustrations, Katz softens the boundary between fantasy and reality.  The colors are bright, which serves to highlight the more realistic tones of the human characters.  In this book, the mother has the same black hair as the baby, while the father has brown hair. The baby’s skin tone is darker than that of both parents.  The pictures are collages of papers with various painted small prints, such as stars, dots, and flowers.  This conveys the hint of scrapbook pages and provides a homey, folksy, whimsical experience.

This book acknowledges the role of the birth mother by this explanation:

“‘You grew like a flower in another lady’s tummy until you were born.  But the lady wasn’t able to take care of you, so Mommy and Daddy came to adopt you and bring you home.  Even before you were born we dreamed about you.  We knew we were meant to be together.'”

This is a fairly standard response to children who are adopted.   Cheri Register, in “Are Those Kids Yours?”, argues that this is actually a dangerous path to travel. She believes that without teaching the cultural context for “wasn’t able to take care of you,” that the questions some children will inevitably ask lead to answers that devalue the birth mother’s experience and ultimately the child himself.  She also argues that when children discover that if they didn’t adopt that particular child, they would have adopted another, and that that knowledge undermines the idea of “meant to be together” or “choosing” the child.  Regardless of whether or not you agree with Register, there is a distancing that goes on with the phrase “another lady’s tummy” that makes me uncomfortable.

This book is meant for the very young child, and because of its poetic nature, is meant to be a springboard for discussion, not a manual for how to talk about adoption.  The book takes a very complex and individualized situation and opens a door through which adult and child can enter.

Comments

  1. Margo Johnson says:

    As both a birth and adoptive mother, I appreciate all opportunities to talk about adoption. No book, illustration, poem or discussion board will meet everyone’s needs. As part of the adoption triad we must welcome all opportunities, review them and use what works for us in our unique circumstances. For example….At 15, I was not able to care for a child, does that devalue me as a birth mother? No not ever!! I would have much less value if I had tried to parent if I couldn’t. I do not take offense to that. As an Amom to 2 beautiful biracial girls, I have found that fantasy works in many ways to discuss their adoption story, there are no lies but we do not need frank truths that they do not understand at this stage.
    So, I guess my rambling means, don’t criticize those that try to share their adoption experience, salute the fact that they are sharing & use what of there journey may help you on yours.

  2. Margo, thank you so much for your insights. You have a unique perspective, coming from two parts of the adoption triad. Fantasy definitely has its place, which is why I really love this book. In fact, in Lisa DeNike Ercolano’s post she mentions how her family has used fantasy. https://dontwelookalike.com/2012/10/10/special-delivery-a-message-sent-into-the-blue-beyond/
    In a review it’s important to be really analytical and to point out something which could be considered objectionable. This book is quite beautiful in both story and illustations, but the phrase “another lady’s tummy” seems to make the birth mother very removed. Readers may or may not find that something they approve of. Also, there is the Cheri Register theory to consider. So while it’s a beautiful book, it’s up to the individual readers to decide if it works for them or not. For me, it works well enough, but I like knowing the possible weaknesses.

  3. Margo Johnson says:

    Luanne, Thanks for responding. I guess I jumped too quickly to post. Your blogs are insightful & thought provoking and well written. I just get frustrated when there is criticism of how we as parents parent our adoptive children. As my dear nanny said to me many years ago, “we do the best we can with what we know at the time”. I loved Lisa’s piece and I love any opportunity to talk. I just have a hard time with people who criticize another’s parenting/choices.
    I probably should have kept my comment to myself, sorry.

  4. I love your speaking up, Margo. Adoption is such an emotional subject. I think I read every article and book about adoption first with my emotions and then have to sort through them so I can get to my thoughts. It can be tough. Have you considered submitting your story to our blog? And I LOVE your nanny’s advice. It’s so true. I can be so hard on myself, so I have to keep reminding myself of that.

  5. That book sounds really brilliant! My grandmother used to tell me and my sister a fairytale-like story about how much our parents wished for two girls, and how we came all the way from Korea in this huge airplane 🙂

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