Recommended Reads #11

National Adoption Month

This week's titles highlight the different ways families can look and be created, with a focus on stories dealing with adoption/foster care.


Books can help to foster empathy and understanding in students, and to validate the experiences of those who don’t always see themselves reflected in the culture or the curriculum. If you would like to borrow any of these books, just email me and I will bring them to you. - Maya






A Family is a Family is a Family, by Sara O'Leary

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When a teacher asks the children in her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways — but the same in the one way that matters most of all.


One child is worried that her family is just too different to explain, but listens as her classmates talk about what makes their families special. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One is full of stepsiblings, and another has a new baby.


As one by one, her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them — family of every shape, size and every kind of relation — the child realizes that as long as her family is full of caring people, her family is special.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

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The start of the school year is not going as the Fletcher brothers hoped. Each boy finds his plans for success veering off in unexpected and sometimes diastrous directions. And at home, their miserable new neighbor complains about everything. As the year continues, the boys learn the hard and often hilarious lesson that sometimes what you least expect is what you come to care about the most.

Families, by Jesse Unaapik Mike and Kerry McCluskey

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Talittuq is excited to start his first day of grade two. He is looking forward to the new school year, but as he meets his friends again for the first time after summer vacation, he notices that a lot of his friends’ families are very different from his own. Some have one mom and one dad, and some have only a mom. Some kids live with their grandparents. Some live with two dads or two moms. As Talittuq hears about all the fun his friends have had with their families, he learns that families come in many different shapes and sizes, and what holds them all together is love!

Three Pennies, by Melanie Crowder

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For a kid bouncing from foster home to foster home, The Book of Changes is the perfect companion. That’s why Marin carries three pennies and a pocket-sized I Ching with her everywhere she goes. Yet when everything in her life suddenly starts changing—like landing in a foster home that feels like somewhere she could stay, maybe forever—the pennies don’t have any answers for her.


Marin is positive that all the wrongs in her life will be made right if only she can find her birth mother and convince her that they belong together. Marin is close, oh so close—until she gets some unwelcome news and her resolve, like the uneasy earth far beneath the city of San Francisco, is shaken.

Far From the Tree, by Robin Benway

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Being the middle child has its ups and downs.


But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—


Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.


And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Give and Take, by Elly Swartz

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Family has always been important to twelve-year-old Maggie: a trapshooter, she is coached by her dad and cheered on by her mom. But her grandmother's recent death leaves a giant hole in Maggie's life, one which she begins to fill with an assortment of things: candy wrappers, pieces of tassel from Nana's favorite scarf, milk cartons, sticks . . . all stuffed in cardboard boxes under her bed.


Then her parents decide to take in a foster infant. But anxiety over the new baby's departure only worsens Maggie's hoarding, and soon she finds herself taking and taking until she spirals out of control. Ultimately, with some help from family, friends, and experts, Maggie learns that sometimes love means letting go.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett K. Krosoczka

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In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka's teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett's family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett's life. His father is a mystery -- Jarrett doesn't know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents -- two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.


Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what's going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.


Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.