Read the Back of the Inside Cover First: Review of “Rosie’s Family”

by Luanne

After reading the picture book Rosie’s Family: An Adoption Story by Lori Rosove, pictures by Heather Burrill, I want to scream.

Yup, scream or at least wring my hands in frustration that such a cute book by an adoption professional has some glaring “issues.”

Let me back up.  This is the story of 7-year-old Rosie, a young Beagle who was adopted by a Schnauzer family.  She has a little brother, Joey, who is the biological son of their parents.   The book is geared for the interracial adoption experience.

Welcoming and peaceful, the illustrations are drawings with colored pencils. They depict a cozy home environment, as well as some specific outdoor scenes which evoke a safe and beautiful natural world.

The book is set up to provide to an adopted child answers to her questions, affirmation for emotions she might have, and situations she might have to deal with in the outside world.  This is a very valid project, and at the end of the book are a list of issues parents can use this book to deal with.

“Rosie’s Family highlights several common issues for adoptive families.  It was written primarily as a guide for parents to discuss these issues with their children.”

If I had read this section before reading the book, I might have approached my reading differently.  Rather than being seen as a picture book for children, it might be seen as a guidebook for parents to use as the issues arise.

Here are the problems I have with the book as a “bedtime book” for children.

1.  Rosie is a dog and she was adopted by her family.  I am a huge animal lover (and, yes, I carry on conversations with my cats, interpreting their thoughts into speech).  Still, I find it awkward that the same words we use to talk about bringing specifically dogs and cats into our families (adoption, fostering) are the words we use to talk about bringing children into our families.  Sometimes we hear stories about animals adopted who “don’t work out” and are “brought back.”  Hearing these associations has got to be really puzzling for children, so to confuse the issues in a picture book seems unnecessary.  For some reason I haven’t yet identified, Rosie’s identity as a dog is more important in this book than in other picture books about adoption featuring animals which I have read in the past.

2.  There is a two page spread about where babies “come from” which is confusing.  On the left page, the text reads: “Some kids are adopted into families, like me…….”  The illustrations show a set of birth parents with baby Rosie in a basket facing the Schnauzers, Rosie’s adoptive parents.  On the right page, Rosie is looking at baby Joey inside her Mom, using a sort of telescope (microscope?).  The text reads: “…..and some are born into families, like my brother Joey who grew inside my Mom.”   Unfortunately, this contextualization makes it seem as though Rosie herself was not born.  It’s a comparison of oranges to apples.  The basic idea makes sense, but seeing it contrasted on two opposite pages gave me a strange feeling.

3.  During the questions and issues that arise (Are you my real parents? What were my birth parents like? Where did I live before? Why do I look different from my family?) I suspect that a child who has not yet encountered this breadth of adoption issues might feel overwhelmed.  Reading is frequently a time for comfort and companionship for young children, and this might be just too much all at once.  Nevertheless, as a tool to use to address an issue, it would be a decent book to pull out to illustrate a frank and loving conversation.

Rosie’s Family brings up important issues and deals with them in a trustworthy way, but it’s not bedtime reading.


  1. Eek, I’m a bit speechless (which doesn’t happen often!). Suffice to say, I agree with your overall review — But placing animal rescues in the same context as human adoption? That leaves me with an uncomfortable chill…

    • I don’t know why this particular book bugged me more than most because a lot of books about adoption feature animals. I think it’s the whole focus on dogs thing because dogs are the animal we most think of when we think of “adopting” a pet. I can’t imagine not being confused if I was a kid.

  2. Books for children about adoption always seem kind of iffy to me – I can’t recall ever having a child’s book about adoption, and thankfully I know I didn’t have The Chosen Child, (whatever it was called) that was the “go to” book for adoptees of my era. Are they needed? I don’t know.

    I read the guide and have to say the only one I strongly disliked was #2 Are adoptive parents the real parents. Perhaps it is semantics of the terms used focusing on “parent” – because they say parents are the ones who raise you. I think it sets up a wall stopping further conversations about the fact that we have two of each (generally). Just seemed dismissive rather than inclusive, that would respect who we come from at the same time. To me it make sense to separate the “we have two of each”, and the “reason why some of us are adopted instead of raised in our family of birth”. Perhaps not making sense there, but I see far too much of “who is the real mom” today vs “focusing on making sense of why adoption is needed” – focusing on the ego stroking of the parents vs making sense to the child.

    Apparently I like to ramble when commenting here.

  3. Well, I don’t have a problem with the fact that the word “adopt” is used in various contexts. There are a lot of words in the English language that have multiple meanings, and “adopt” is one of them. And there are a lot of adoption books that use animals instead of people – A Mother for Choco, God Gave Us You, I Wished for You…
    I never thought about the fact that it might not seem that Rosie was born. You’re right, though. I do think it’s an error on the author’s part. However, I like that they show Rosie’s birthparents meeting her adoptive parents. Most adoption books leave out birth parents entirely. OTOH, a few pages later, the book states that they don’t know Rosie’s birth parents. So… yeah… Interesting.
    The “real parents” conversation as presented at the end of the book is limiting, as another commenter mentioned.
    Although it’s a picture book, this book is supposed to be for slightly older kids, not preschool. It’s the first book that we’ve ever had that talks about the sad feelings associated with adoption. I think that’s important, though. It’s not a book you read for the first time right before bed, as you pointed out. However, it was a good way for my son and I to talk about some of the things that he had been feeling that he really hadn’t known how to express before.

    • Robyn, I knew you would have a well thought out take on this book. I know what you mean about the many meanings of certain words and how lots of adoption books feature animal characters. I just hate that blurring of the line between animal adoptions and human adoptions when it comes to little kids who are still learning these distinctions. But I agree that there is a lot of value in this book about dealing with the “sad feelings.” Not many books do that! They are usually meant to be just validating of the positive. Thanks so much for reading and responding here!

      • Sometimes the use of animals is nice though, because we don’t get hung up on race. Like, “well, that kid’s Chinese and I’m not Chinese so that doesn’t apply to me.”

  4. Thanks for sharing this on the Weekly Adoption Shout Out.
    It’s not a book I’m familiar with, but one we might get out of the library. We’ll be sure not to look at it at bedtimes though.


  1. […] I just reviewed a book where I found the animal characters (dogs) confusing because of the term […]

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