I wondered and hoped there was more children's books that were so
honest and genuine in their portrayal of the struggles of adopted
children... I found some are, but many are not and simply use the
"orphan theme" as a means to creating a struggle for their character. I am trying to compile a list of books that include adoption and adoption
issues, both as main themes or as a side issue. Amazingly the "orphan theme" is
strong in many books, they just don't always handle it in a very tactful, positive
or modern way.
Literature tells stories. They have a way of connecting truths (or
introducing falsehoods) that effect our lives. As parents we have the benefit of
using literature to not only spend time in close proximity to our
children (curled up on a couch or in bed) but also to spark discussions
about their pasts, struggles and inner feelings. Books can also provide positive role
models in characters who overcome despite similar difficult pasts.
Here is my list... please please please read the book
prior to reading it to your child to determine if they will be able to handle the themes in a positive way. Most of the books are assuming the child is over the age of 5 or 6 years old... and I think most benefit from having the child be on the older side so that they can be more thoughtful about the books themes. I've added a review to some, but
others I just list, because I either haven't read them or it has been a good long while.
~Books With Positive "Orphaned"
or Adopted Characters~
The Secret Garden - (age for
read aloud 7+) In this book the main character is orphaned by unloving
and neglectful parents. She exhibits many aspects of attachment issues. She comes to a
realization that she was not loved and cared for the way children ought to be, that children typically
"belong" to a parent who loves them and that she is now alone. She rages and pushes people away
from her. She feels broken and alone. It is through slowly getting to
know people in her life, finding enjoyment in making other things grow
and through helping others heal that she herself heals. It is one of my
favorite pieces of literature, and I think shows a very deep and true
picture of attachment issues in the life of a child.
Family Under the Bridge - (age for read aloud 7+) This was a hard book
for me to read. It covers the concepts of poverty, loss of a father,
single parenthood, that families should stay together, fear of being
taking from family, and how people need to work together to help
families stay together when difficult things happen. A beggar or pan
handler by choice meets up with a sibling group of three who has
recently lost their father. Their mother is desperately trying to
maintain her work to save up for a room for them. They are tossed out on
the street when she loses her job. The beggar has to take them under
his wing and provide for the children while their mom is out of the
picture working. The beggar learns to love and the children learn to
stick together and be resourceful and help their mother as she struggles to maintain care of them.
The Hundred Dresses -
(age for read aloud 6+ and better for girls, than boys) This is one of
our all time favorites...it is about a girl's first hand experience
with how unkind words effects people as she quietly sits by a friend who
treats another girl unkindly. She knows it is wrong, but fails to be
brave enough to stop it. It covers the concepts of poverty, compassion,
bravery, peer pressure, effects of words, finding/picking true friends, and hope.
The Box Car Children - (age for read aloud
5+) I think this is a good book for younger children because it
introduces the concept of loss of parents, but doesn't delve deeply or
too emotionally into it. Some of the things I didn't love was that they
have these weird bakers chasing after them trying to make them slaves/servants,
and that they have this fear of their grandfather who they've been
estranged from, but then later find out that he is a loving and good
man. Fear is a big aspect of this book. I have mixed feelings on this book because it has good parts and
sort of tactless parts, but the very positive side is that the siblings
love each other, have loads of fun, are creative and are determined to
A Little Princess - (age for read aloud 7+)...
Sarah lost her mother at birth and has a very close and connected
relationship with her father. She experiences grief and loss when at age
7 her father takes her to a boarding school so she can learn. She is a
bright girl with a positive outlook and has a great level of compassion
for others. At the school she befriends the less loved girls and the
servant. The climax of the story is when she looses her father as well,
and is forced by the antagonist headmistress to be a servant to all the other girls.
The themes of loss, grief, resiliency, compassion, perseverance and love
for others are strongly portrayed as Sarah deals with the challenging
circumstances in her life. At times it feels a bit "Pollyanna-ish" but I am sure that this story can connect with many children.
Stone Fox - (age for read aloud 7+) I remember reading this when I was in 5th grade, I loved it! Willy lives with his Grandfather on a potato farm near Jackson, Wyoming.
His Grandfather is very poor though, and falls into depression when he
cannot pay the taxes on the land. Determined to do something to help,
young Willy enters his dog Searchlight in the National Dogsled Contest,
for which the first place prize is 500 dollars. This means that he will
have to go up against the Native American, Stone Fox, who races his team
of malamutes every year and invariably wins.
Stuart Little - (age for read aloud 5+) Stuart is an orphan mouse who is lucky enough to belong to a
Stuart gets into all sorts of adventures.. He is bullied by the family cat and has a bird
for a best friend that he must later save from the cat. All
in all, life with Stuart is far from normal. This would be a good book to discuss the issues that trans-ethnic families face.
Sarah Plain and Tall - (age for read aloud 8+) A father and children lose a mother in childbirth. The father deals with depression while trying to bring up his children. They all find healing, love and hope when Sarah arrives as a mail order bride to join their family as a new mother.
of Green Gables - (age for read aloud 10+) Anne Shirley is an orphan who has never known her past. She has been moved around between orphanages and homes being used and mistreated. She has a very active imagination and likes to create and imagine her unknown history in dramatic and fanciful ways! She finds a forever family in an older brother and sister who never intended on being parents to such a dramatic girl. They all learn to love and grow through their relationships, struggles and challenges. This book covers adoption related issues of feeling different,
wanting to be normal, finding friendship, unkind words about adoption, attaching to
unexpected parents, learning to love, being yourself... (ages 10+)
Shades of Gray - (age for reading 10+) Thought-provoking story of a boy who was orphaned by the Civil War as he
struggles to forgive "the enemy" and discover what true courage is all
about. (Taken from review on Sonlight.com)
~Reviews To Come~
The Light at Tern Rock
The Jungle Book
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Wizard of Oz
Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm
Jane Eyre (teenage reading material)
The Courage of Sarah Nobel
The Horse and His Boy - Narnia Series
The House of Sixty Fathers
Star of Light
The titles that address adoption related issues in audio books!!!
I love Librivox!!!
A Little Princess
The Secret Garden
Railway Children - about 3 children and their mother who suddenly "lose" their father.
of Green Gables
The Wizard of Oz