From the Publisher:
In this heartwarming adoption story, the Seeks set out to start a family but soon discover it’s not going to be easy. So they embark on a journey that takes them through the desert, mountains, and jungle only to find that they didn’t have to travel so far and so wide to find a child to love after all.
I was thrilled to be sent a copy of this book by the publisher to review, especially since it is about adoption. November is Adoption Awareness month, so this was perfect timing! The topic of infertility and adoption is sensitively and clearly laid out. Mr. and Mrs. Seek have fulfilling lives, but realize that something is missing in their life together. When they are unable to conceive biologically, their journey toward and exploration of adoption is presented in a gentle way that kids will easily understand. The awkward “trying” for a biological child phase is simply and brilliantly presented with the dual helpful/painful reality of friends and family being supportive/inquisitive/intrusive all at the same time. Having Mrs. Seek “check her tummy” is a beautiful and simple way to present pregnancy, allowing the reader to scaffold understanding for even the youngest toddlers. The Seeks’ natural journey to choosing adoption is realistically portrayed as their path to parenthood continues. The Seeks take some time to be alone and wrestle with the difficult emotions and choices and arrive at the realization that adoption could be a solution for them. Their journey is shown to be time-consuming, discouraging and tiring, but yet the beauty within the agony is still found through Mrs. Seek bringing home a bit of each place (a plant) that they explored in their travels/journey to adoption. That Mrs. Seek was able to nurture beauty from the different parts of the experience shows the glimpses of hope even in the difficult mess of infertility and the road to adoption. She realizes that if she can bring home bits of other places and coax life and beauty from them, they might also be able to help a baby from somewhere else to grow and thrive. The association here is a wonderfully practical and concrete way to portray the complicated ways that couples arrive at the adoption decision and is most helpful as a tool to assist children to understand their own journey. Though the platform for the adoption in this book is infertility, it would still be useful to use to discuss the whole concept of adoption and the myriad reasons for and roads towards it.
As an adoptive mother, I always approach adoption stories with a mix of excitement and trepidation. On one hand, I am thrilled to read of the journey of others and seek resources to help us explain our story to our kids and others who cross our path. On the other hand, I have read many stories that don’t match our reality, use heavy-handed language, or just miss the mark in terms of being a book/tool for learning about the many complexities and mixed emotions of adoption. I was thrilled when my preview copy of this book arrived. I sat and read it myself right away and was so pleased. Before reading it to my toddler, I gave it to my mom to read. That elicited a great conversation between us. I had thought we had already covered the whole landscape in our previous discussions, but the book sparked yet another fantastic and supportive dialogue about the many intricacies of adoption.
Lately, my three-year-old has started asking a few questions about the word adoption, and I have read this book with her numerous times since receiving it. The first time we stuck very close to the text. She asked very few questions and just went with the story. The next day she brought it to me and asked if I could read it to her. I asked her why she wanted to read this book and she replied with a question: “this is like my story, right, Mom?”. I replied that it was and this second time through she started asking questions about each part. During the part about checking Mrs. Seek’s tummy for a baby, my daughter started to cry. Asking what was wrong lead to tears for both of us as we gently explored the process of moms growing babies in their tummies and the special way that our children had come to us. Her sensitivity and ability to understand and extend empathy amazed me. Floored me. We have been navigating this HUGE concept so beautifully with the help of the text and illustrations in the book. Each subsequent read of this book with my toddler has brought forth further questions and areas to explore around the topic of her unique story. I will be forever grateful for having had it just in time for her beginning questions, and I know we will return to it again for my twins and eventually all three kids together as questions about “why/how” emerge in our family’s adoption journey. I would highly recommend that adults use this book as a wonderful read-aloud to all ages of kids as a platform to explore the nuanced and sensitive topic of adoption. One note on a possible weak spot of the book: there is no mention of the long wait times that are a reality for many couples ready to adopt, nor is there mention of the robust process most agencies require for approval to adopt. Mr. & Mrs. Seek are able to go right to the agency and adopt right away. Mention of background checks and long wait times might have unnecessarily complicated the story, so I understand why it may have been left out of this narrative.
- love that the story is made neutral with quirky illustrated creatures instead of people
- gentle way pregnancy is handled: “checking your tummy” – simple for young kids and expandable/explainable for older children
- text is “chunked” appropriately – 40 pages with rich illustrations – pacing and timing are excellent for young listeners
- illustrations very helpful support for the story
- a wonderful medium to use as you approach the more complicated and emotional aspects of adoption
- there is no mention of the possible wait times that are a reality for many couples approved and waiting to adopt, nor is there mention of the robust process required for approval.
- if I am being very picky, the format of the book (smaller size and less rectangular making it a bit non-picture book-looking) means that on first glance it may look like the typical format of a book for older children, and may not appear to be the format we often see for use with younger kids. Don’t judge the book based on this!
Why/How Use it with kids:
- as a springboard and scaffold for parents of adopted children to use to help both the parent and child tell/understand their own story
- I would use as a read-aloud – even with older kids. It would be important for an adult to be present to answer any questions that may arise and to personalize the story
- a discussion piece to use with all children who may be learning about adoption (perhaps they know someone who is adopted but don’t understand what that word means)
- parent and child continue the story (personalize it) through illustration, story telling, art, etc. to fit/tell their own story
About the Author & Illustrator:
(From the book): Tracey Zeeck was born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma City where she currently owns a boutique public relations firm specializing in clients with good business practices and better stories to tell. She and her husband were lucky enough to become parents through adoption in November 2007 and have been on a mission to tell the world their family’s love story ever since. The Not In Here Story is the ever-evolving origin tale of her little family.
(From the book): David Bizarro is a Puppeteer, Illustrator, and Funny Video Maker living in NYC. He believes you can do anything you set your mind to as long as you have a positive outlook. When David is not making puppets or silly videos, he is spending time with his wife Cassie and his cat Rita.