Thursday, January 22, 2015



RED BUTTERFLY will be hitting the bookstore shelves in less than two weeks -- February 3rd!

If you're in the area, I'm having a little party to celebrate the launch at the Richland Public Library in Richland, WA on February 10th, 6:30p.m. All are welcome! There will be books available for sale and I'll be glad to sign your copy!

I'm also celebrating RED BUTTERFLY's launch with a Goodreads Giveaway! There's a link in the side bar, or click here to enter.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas 
from our family to yours! 

Photo by Ann Woodard

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (NIV)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Giveaway Winner & More Reviews!

I'm so excited to share another starred review with you, this one from Publishers Weekly, for Red Butterfly!

Evocative first-person poems divided into three sections—“Crawl,” “Dissolve,” and “Fly”—combine with small, delicate b&w illustrations from Bates to provide a framework that helps organize the chaotic feelings 11-year-old Kara struggles to express. Mysteries pervade her life: although ethnically Chinese, she lives in China in near poverty with her Caucasian mother, hiding her misshapen right hand in long sleeves, speaking English at home, unable to attend school. Mama promises that someday they will live with Kara’s father in Montana, but for now: “Don’t ask me,/ Kara,/ don’t ask me.” Piecing together her story, Kara realizes Mama discovered her, an abandoned baby, and stayed in China illegally to raise her. After this transgression is discovered, Kara finds herself in an orphanage as her Montana parents vie with another family to adopt her. Sonnichsen creates a palpable sense of yearning for home and belonging (“I want to explain, but/ I can’t make my mouth form words./ How a place so beautiful/ can make me feel so sad”) in this heartbreaking, heartwarming, and impressive debut. Ages 8–12. 

And more great news (as if that wasn't enough!) ... this morning my editor forwarded me this lovely review from the School Library Journal:

Gr 4-7–After being found abandoned as an infant in Tianjin, China, Kara was never formally adopted by her American parents, leaving her with no identity papers. Kara’s mother hasn’t had a valid visa in years, but she refuses to leave China without Kara. Now 11, the girl is discovered by police who deport her mother and send Kara to an orphanage for disabled children (she has a malformed hand). There she struggles with her feelings of abandonment, and the emotional conflict from the reality that the Chinese government won’t let the only mother she’s ever known adopt her. But soon a different family wants her. Told in free verse that occasionally plays with form to capture Kara’s mood and decorated with small illustrations mixing watercolor and collage, the narrative is broken into three distinct sections: “Crawl,” set in Tianjin; “Dissolve,” set at the orphanage; and “Fly,” set in Florida. Based on the author’s own experiences in fostering for years before being allowed to adopt from China, “Dissolve” is particularly heartbreaking and occasionally shocking, despite the underfunded orphanage being (under)staffed by caring adults. Readers everywhere will empathize with and root for Kara as she discovers where she belongs and her true home.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Thank you to Publishers Weekly and to Jennifer Rothschild at SLJ for these wonderful reviews!

Last, but not least, I need to announce the winner of my Adoption Month Red Butterfly Giveaway. Thank you to everyone who entered and helped spread the word.

The winner is...


Esther didn't actually post on my blog, but she's a regular reader who emailed to ask if she could be included in the giveaway since she didn't have access to the comments section. I'm so happy to send a copy to Esther because she is an amazing girl who I knew in real life when she was little. I even babysat her! She is adopted herself and has lots of adopted siblings. Red Butterfly couldn't go to a more perfect home. 

Congratulations, Esther!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Adoption Month: Thankful

It's almost Thanksgiving here in the United States.

Originally this week I was going to write a post about the harder part of adoption: PARENTING. The post was going to talk about how you can have this beautiful story of rescuing a baby from a life of parentlessness, but after the fairy tale ... normal life happens. I may still blog about that sometime, but my heart is thankful this week, so I want to focus on thankfulness instead (with an adoption theme, of course, because it's still Adoption Month).

Photo by Ann Woodard

I'm thankful for:

  • A Happy Beginning: I almost wrote a happy ending, but our adoption wasn't an ending, it was a beginning. Lately I've been thinking back on those almost seven years when our adoption was in-process (and in limbo), and how I lived in a constant state of preparing for the worst, ready at any moment to have my heart broken. But we didn't get the worst. Our adoption worked out. That is a huge blessing that I never want to forget to be thankful for.
  • Options!: Our sweet, oldest daughter has emotional needs that weren't being met in traditional public school. Homeschooling scared me for so many years, but recently we found a school that's a cross between online school and traditional school in a town near us. It's perfect for her because it gives us time together, but not so much time that we drive each other crazy. Overall, she's very happy and making new friends, and I've seen a significant change in her outlook on life, which has been a huge encouragement.
  • A Great Man: My Dashingly Handsome Sidekick (aka DHS) is an amazing father who embraced my adoption dream with so much grace. The way he met our oldest daughter was a bit unorthodox: he came home from a school camp and I said, "Surprise! Meet Olivia!" I'm so grateful to have a loving companion who is willing to go on life's adventures with me. 
  • Provision: Our oldest has some special needs because she was born with a cleft lip and palate. I'm so grateful to the Shriners Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon for taking on her case (even though she wasn't a US citizen yet when they started treating her!) and giving Olivia free medical care and surgeries until she's an adult. We have also found a great orthodontist in our area who has helped many cleft lip and palate children. God provides!
Apart from adoption, I am thankful for this great piece of news I got last week: Kirkus gave my book, Red Butterfly, a starred review! You can check out what they had to say here. I've been walking as if on a cloud all week!!

There's still time to enter my giveaway for a copy of Red Butterfly when it releases in February. Click here and leave a comment. Couldn't be easier!

If you're American, have a wonderful Turkey Day on Thursday! Don't forget to be thankful!  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adoption Month: We Need Diverse Books

We need diverse books ... for many reasons.

One of the reasons is that blended families happen through adoption.

To be honest, I'm not sure I've done a good enough job purchasing diverse books for my children. How do I know this? Because my thirteen-year-old daughter, who happens to be ethnically Chinese, saw me participating in this campaign and wanted to write something about why we need diverse books.

Here are her unedited words:

Diverse Books. There aren’t many. When I think of diverse stories, I think of biographies or folk tales from different places around the world. I never really thought about America actually having a book where the main character isn’t white. Recently, I started reading, “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing” by: M.T. Anderson. I started out reading thinking that Octavian was white.  Turns out, when I got to the middle of the book, I found out he was black!  I feel like there should be more books with characters with colored skin because not everyone is white! I want more diverse characters because I want to be able to relate to characters in the books I read. That’s why we need more diverse books.

I have nothing to add, except #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Don't forget to enter my RED BUTTERFLY giveaway to celebrate adoption month!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Adoption Books for Adoption Month!

November is National Adoption Month! 

This week we're celebrating books about adoption. (Also, don't forget, I'm giving away a copy of my middle grade novel, Red Butterfly. Click here to enter!)

I know there are lots of books with adoption themes out there, but these are a few that have ended up in our house that have meant something to me.

Bear at the Beach by Clay Carmichael

We bought this picture book not knowing it was about adoption. What a lovely surprise! It gently and beautifully handles the sense of loss that most adopted children feel at being separated from their birth parents, but also gives such a beautiful picture of what family can be. The illustrations are charming and simple, the text sparse, yet engaging. What a touching tribute to adoption. Every time I read it, I choke up, without fail.

Detail from Bear at the Beach, by Clay Carmichael

The Great Call of China by Cynthia Liu

The Great Call of China is part of the S.A.S.S. series, a collection of books written by various authors. My eldest daughter devoured these books when she was a tween. They're perfect for girls who want to read higher than a normal middle grade chapter book, but aren't ready for full-fledged YA. I highly recommend them, because they take kids all around the world in a light and fun way.

I'll be honest here, though: I struggled with The Great Call of China. I read it before my daughter did and, afterward, wanted to hide it away and never let her read it! My Olivia is adopted from China and the story follows an adopted, ethnically-Chinese teenage girl who returns to China with a study abroad program, harboring a secret hope to find her birth family. I didn't want Olivia to read it because I thought the ending was completely unrealistic. **Spoiler Alert** I didn't want her to get her hopes up, to think she could go back to China, poke around a little, and instantly find her birth family!

Olivia saw the cover, however, and begged to read it. Can I just say that she has now read this book at least five times? Several times I've walked into her room to find her randomly rereading it!

Which shows how much I know. And really, maybe I was overprotective in trying to keep a book like this away from her, not wanting her to get her hopes up about finding her birth family. Maybe I need to give her credit for being a smart young lady who can think for herself, and apply reasonable expectations for herself, and dream for herself....

I still think the novel handles the subject unrealistically, but I'm so glad my Chinese daughter found a character with whom she could identify. That in itself is priceless!

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge

This is non-fiction! And sort of a self-help book! If you know me, you know I rarely read non-fiction (though sometimes the occasional biography) and generally have an aversion to self-help books. (I might be a little overly confident that I can figure things out on my own.) A friend of mine gave me this book, however, after it changed her perspective. She said, "I wish I'd had this book when my kids were growing up!" Since that's pretty high praise, I decided to go ahead and read it.

I'm so glad I did. The author is a grown adopted child and her insight is priceless. Reading this book has given me a whole new empathy for my adopted child. It softened my heart when my heart was in danger of growing hard. It gave me a new perspective, just like it gave my friend. It gave me a lot of hope, too.

I'd love to hear if you've read any of these books, or if there's an adoption book you've loved. Please comment here, but also make sure to comment on my post for the Red Butterfly giveaway

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November is Adoption Month!

November is Adoption Month!

I thought we could celebrate on the blog with adoption-related posts and a book giveaway for my upcoming middle grade novel, RED BUTTERFLY (which releases in Feb, 2015 ... just a few months away!)

This last month marked a very important anniversary in our family: Olivia's Gotcha Day!

What is a Gotcha Day?

A Gotcha Day is a little like a birthday, but it marks the day when an adoptive family GOT their adopted child. Some families celebrate on the day their adoption was made official, but most families celebrate the day their child was placed in their arms or in their custody.

Since our adoption was unorthodox, the day we brought Olivia home was six and a half years before we completed her adoption, so we celebrate the day I brought her home from the orphanage. She was six weeks old.

This is the first picture I took of Olivia at six weeks, from her baby album. 

How do families celebrate Gotcha Days?

Every family is different. We have one main tradition in our family, and that is the making (and consuming) of Whoopie Pies. A delicious tradition, let me tell you. We decided not to make the Gotcha Day exactly like a birthday -- for instance, we don't give gifts. But sometimes we do have family come to join us for the Whoopie Pie dessert. And we always tell Olivia's adoption story, usually over dinner or Whoopie Pie-eating. We make sure Olivia knows how thankful we are that God placed her in our family! 

Olivia's thirteenth Gotcha Day!
If you'd be interested in winning a hardcover copy of my middle-grade novel, RED BUTTERFLY, leave a comment below. I'll leave the giveaway open all through November to celebrate Adoption Month, so spread the word! Winners will receive their books in February, after the official release.

If you do spread the word on social media, leave me an extra comment and I'll give you an extra entry. Thank you!

Quick & Easy Tweets:

Enter @alsonnichsen's #RedButterfly giveaway to celebrate #Adoption Month in November!

It's #Adoption Month! Celebrate by entering @alsonnichsen's #RedButterfly giveaway!