Families are often advised to begin talking about adoption while a child is very young, even before he can understand the words, so that the child will grow up seeing adoption as a normal way for a family to form. Recent years have brought many children’s picture books on adoption, but it’s still a difficult topic to convey to toddlers and preschoolers.
A book which speaks very simply about adoption and the diverse families it creates is I’m Brown and My Sister Isn’t, by Robbie O’Shea, who is herself a mother of two adopted children who have different skin colors. It’s a very simple, easy-reader book with one or two sentences in large type on each page. Full-page illustrations on the facing page are brightly colored and simple, but humorous too.
The book begins with the title declaration by a young boy with dark skin. The first illustration shows the siblings lifting their glasses to each other in “cheers” fashion. (One sibling is drinking chocolate milk, one white milk.) The boy goes on to list similarities between himself and his sister: they are both adopted, they both go to school, they both have lots of friends, they both like beach vacations (although one gets more tan and one must use a wide-brimmed hat to avoid sunburn).
Differences the narrator points out are: she’s a girl and he’s a boy, and she likes dollhouses while he likes trucks.
I like this book because similarities and differences are presented in a matter-of-fact way and with each characteristic of equal worth.
I have a small disagreement with the ending statement in the book, though. I would not have written, “Our family is special for many reasons, but mostly because I’m brown and my sister isn’t!” I think the diversity is a wonderful thing about a family, but I believe the most special things about families are their love and their everyday lives together.
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