Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: "Billy Had to Move"

The latest contribution to children's adoption/foster care literature comes from Theresa Fraser, a long-time Canadian foster parent and children's therapist. Billy Had To Move: A Foster Care Story tells the story of a boy who is being raised in a kinship placement with his grandmother. When she unexpectedly dies and his mother can't be located, he moves in with a foster family and meets a new social worker and therapist. Told from Billy's point-of-view, it does a good job of using children's language and concepts as Billy grieves and adjusts. It is a compassionate book that honors the many complex, conflicting, and confusing emotions Billy experiences, while also ending with a spirit of hope.

It's a children's book, so things are of course a little simplified and idealized. Billy's foster mother is an always-nurturing domestic goddess and the social worker and therapist seem to have lots of extra time to be with Billy outside of scheduled appointments. (Just like the real world, right?) But it is a relatable introduction to the foster system for kids who don't really know what foster care is about or how their peers end up in care. (It's made clear, for example, that Billy is not there because he did something wrong.) And for children in care, it may serve as a helpful touchpoint as they see some of their losses and emotions mirrored in Billy. It also introduces the idea of play therapy and describes what a typical session might be like.

My biggest critique is that it's hard to tell what age this is geared to. The language is fairly simple, but there are lots and lots and lots of words. Some facing pages are top to bottom text with no pictures. I'd say if a kid can sit through something like The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, then they are old enough for this book.

Written by Theresa Ann Fraser, illustrated by Alex Walton; Loving Healing Press, 2009; $16 at Amazon. My copy was provided free of charge by Parent Reviewers. is an affiliate.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: "The Unit"

I was sent a review copy of The Unit, a new novel by Swedish author Ninni Homqvist.

It is smooth reading (translated nicely by Marlaine Delargy) and explores what it means to create, love, be valued and be free. Interestingly, I thought it echoed some of the conversations here in America about the Baby Scoop Era--especially the maternity homes--although with an odd undercurrent of hostility toward feminism.

From the promotional materials, I knew that it would touch on some sensitive subjects for members of the adoption/infertility/loss communities. (The "unit" of the title is a program in which unmarried, childless people over a certain age are used as science experiment participants and organ donors for the "necessary" members of society.) But it went way beyond "touchy." It is an enormous emotional mine field with a ticking time bomb of an ending.

If you have struggled with infertility, placed a child for adoption, experienced any sort of adoption-related loss, or struggled with childlessness or singleness, I highly recommend not reading this book unless you are in a very strong, centered place. If you feel like the curiosity is too much, email me and I'll tell you all about it. is an affiliate

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