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.