From the Cover of Not Quite NARWHALby Jessie Sima:
“This is Kelp. He doesn’t mind being a little different from the other narwhals. But when a strong current carries him away, Kelp encounters some mysterious, sparkling creatures who leave him wondering if maybe… just maybe… he isn’t a narwhal at all.”
The target audience of this book appears to be the general public and targeting children ages 4 through 8 years old. Although this tale doesn’t specifically target foster or adoptive families, these families will be interested in this story as the main character lives with an adoptive family and deals with feeling different than his adoptive family and finding his identity.
The illustrations contain colorful cartoon characters which are reminiscent of ’90s cartoon shows. Sima’s style throughout the book is strong and effectively conveys the emotions of the story which help to engage you child and keep their attention. The illustrations of the book will surely make your family fall in love with it’s characters.
The main character of this story is Kelp, a unicorn who lives in the ocean with his narwhal family. Through the tale Kelp is dealing with the fact that he is noticing how he differs from his family. A strong current causes Kelp to go to the surface where he discovers other unicorns (“land narwhals”). The story allows Kelp to then experience creatures that are similar to him, but at the same moment Kelp must cope with the fact that he dearly loves his family.
This book will allow your family to have healthy conversations about the definition of a family. Foster and adoptive families will be able to use this story as a way to show children that they can show love and loyalty to BOTH their caregivers and biological family. The book does paint a very rosy and ideal image of the “biological” and “adoptive” family getting along for a huge party – caregivers may find the need to explain to children that while they don’t have to “choose sides” that real life may not always look so ideal.
“Not Quite NARWHAL,” is a quality story which will be an asset to your foster or adoptive family as you seek to discuss emotions and questions which come up during foster/adoptive journey.
Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:
It’s Your Turn:
How did Kelp feel about being different than his family?
Why was Kelp anxious about leaving the ocean?
Have you ever been nervous or anxious about doing something for the first time? What?
How did Kelp feel with the unicorns (land narwhals)?
Why did he want to go back to his old friends?
Which world did Kelp have to choose to be a part of?
Do you ever feel like you’re a part of two worlds?
The other day I was talking with a fellow adoptive parent, a fantastic mom, whom our family has know for many years. We were sharing our stories about being on the journey and suddenly the conversation turned to this mom’s regrets for having adopted her child.
This feeling of regret wasn’t made in anger or flippantly. Actually, it was made through cautious and embarrassed tones. Emotions caused from years of striving to meet her child’s needs, of giving up dreams, of giving up time with other children in the home as well as her spouse.
I was able to comfort this friend. It wasn’t that I had the answers but I walk along the same journey that she does. I know what it is like to feel the mix of guilt and regret throughout a period of days. It’s a horrible feeling to come over you when you realize that you’re failing in this caregiver role that you took on. You feel like you are possibly doing the child more harm or at the least not helping them at all. The worst is holding these feelings to yourself because others don’t understand or won’t understand – you’re forced to put on a happy face in public when your insides are clawing for an empathetic ear.
Thankfully over the years I have found other foster and adoptive parents who share my journey. I know others also have feelings of regret for taking a child into their home. However, outside of a counseling office, I only see us, the caregivers, recognize these feelings and then stop there.
What steps can we do to overcome and persevere?
Normalizing for Caregivers
We live in societies and cultures which frown upon imperfection and the inability to be self-reliant. HOWEVER, being human means that NO ONE can provide the perfect care, love, emotions or upbringing for any child. Furthermore, no person is an island and will require help. Caregivers may feel that something is wrong with themselves if they admit they need help, they are overwhelmed or they just don’t simply have those “lovey dovey” feelings for their child. The fact that time has been spent writing this article says that no caregiver is alone in their feelings of regret for starting the foster care or adoption journey.
Go Through the Grieving Process
It’s important to know that there is no “fix” or “easy step guide” to follow to deal with feelings of regret. Instead caregivers will find that it is a process – a grieving process. One must allow themselves to grieve the changed dreams and goals that they had for their child and their life. After losing a loved one, many people seek counseling – this may be an important component for a caregiver to seek as well, so that a professional can help them at least initially walk through the grieving process.
After going through the process, don’t be under the delusion that it won’t rear its head again. One might find themselves going through the grieving cycle several time throughout life. It is again important to “Normalize” these feelings and allow others who are on the foster care or adoption journey to share these moments with you.
Don’t STAY in Regret
It would be easy to hide in your home by yourself and simply live out your days depressed. The fact of the matter is that as a caregiver you chose to take a hurting child into your home and that child (despite what they may be showing you through behaviors) is depending on you for so much. Do you have regrets? Yes. Do you like your child? Maybe not at all. Are you depressed about lost dreams? Quite likely. However, as a caregiver, it is also a part of our job description to execute what is in the child’s best interests. This certainly doesn’t include a caregiver who is stuck in regret. It’s up to you to seek out support, make that appointment with a counselor, do what it takes to have time for self-care… you’re the adult and must lead the charge in this battle.
“August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial difference that prevented him from going to a mainstream school – until now. He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite his appearances?”
The target audience for this book seems to be the general public. However, the theme of feeling isolated, bullied, and other such themes tend to hit close to home for many foster and adoptive children. Transfiguring Adoption believes this book would be best suited for children ages 11 and older. The book has become a pop culture sensation and is even now a successful motion picture. With such popularity this book will more likely be something that children will want to read and discuss as their peers have more than likely read the book as well. Those considering this book for their elementary school child should note that it is a chapter book and as the characters are in the fifth grade dealing with issues surrounding this age range.
This story centers around August (a.k.a. Auggie) Pullman who is a fifth grade boy who was born with a condition which left his face severely deformed. Through his early years Auggie was homeschooled but for various reasons his parents make the difficult decision of putting Auggie in mainstream school. Naturally, being bullied, made fun of, and constantly asked about his deformity is a major theme of the book.
The author has chosen not to simply tell you the tale of Auggie through his eyes but takes the opportunity to advance the tale to a certain point. Then the reader is taken two steps back to see the story from a different character’s eyes to advance you slightly further in the storyline before take you two steps back for a new character’s view. The different points of view seem to be an excellent way for the reader and a family to gain insight or begin a conversation about the reasoning behind someone’s actions.
Teenage adoptee and former foster youth, Jasmine Fink, assisted during this review. She found that foster/adoptive children would be able to relate to the isolation and feelings of being unable to conform to the social norm. Jasmine noted that while some people might scoff at a foster child or adoptee about aligning their feelings with Auggie’s physical deformity, Jasmine assured Transfiguring Adoption that the struggles and emotions are very much similar.
Transfiguring Adoption did not give this book full marks mainly because it did not deal directly with foster care or adoption. However, the story was well executed and presented several situations for which families can begin healthy conversations about emotions and motives for behavior.
Any foster or adoptive family with an eleven year old or older would do well to make this book a center piece of conversation in their home.
Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:
It’s Your Turn:
Part One Questions:
How did August feel getting the tour around his new school?
Do foster or adoptive kids ever feel like Auggie when going to a new school? Explain.
How did Auggie feel about the way he looked when eating?
What is one way you look or do something that you wish you could change?
What is the “cheese touch?” How did it make August feel?
When do you feel like other people treat you like the “cheese touch?”
How would you feel if you were August at the end of Part One?
Part Two Questions:
Do you think Via feels jealous about the attention August receives?
Does Via love August?
Do mom and dad love Via?
Do you ever find it hard to believe that people care about you?
Part Three Questions:
Why does Summer befriend August?
What do Summer and August talk about?
What are three things that friends talk about? What about close/best friends?
Why don’t the other kids want her to be friends with Auggie?
How does she respond to them?
How do you know that someone is your friend?
What are three things that friends do for each other?
Part Four Questions:
How does Jack seem to feel about his family not being as wealthy as some of the other families at school?
Why do you think Jack said mean things about August at Halloween? Do those reasons make it okay?
Why did Jack punch Julian? Was this a good way to handle the situation?
How did Jack and August become friends again?
Did Jack really feel bad about what he had done? How do you know?
How does someone ask for forgiveness or tell someone they are sorry?
What do you say when you accept someone’s apology?
Part Five Questions:
Why do you think Justin likes Via and Auggie’s family so much?
What do you think makes their family nice?
Justin mentions, “Olivia’s family tell each other ‘i love you’ all the time.” Why do you think that is important to him? How might you feel if no one ever told you “I love you,”?
How does Justin protect Jack?
Justin knows that August has difficulties in life. How does Justin feel August has a good life?
You may have some difficult situations. What things are going well in your life?
Part Six Questions:
Why do you think kids at school were getting tired of “The War?”
Why was Auggie so stressed about the hearing aid? Was it as bad as he imagined?
Why did Auggie get so mad at dinner? Why did he think the situation was about him? Was it?
What does it mean when people say someone is “self-conscious?”
Can you think of a time in your family when someone got upset or angry when the situation wasn’t even about them? What are you “self-conscious” about?
Part Seven Questions:
Why did Miranda make up lies about her life at camp?
Do you think foster or adoptive kids ever make up stories about their life? Have you ever done that?
Why do you think Miranda felt comfortable and safe in Via’s home?
What things make you feel comfortable and safe in a home?
Part Eight Questions:
Why was Auggie nervous about the camping trip?
What makes you nervous about sleeping in a new room? Being in a dark room?
What did Auggie like about camp?
Why did the other guys from Breecher Prep help Jack and Auggie?
How can you tell that mom, dad, and Via were worried about Auggie?
When you have to deal with a new situation or “scary” circumstance, people that care about you are just as nervous for you. How can you tell that mom was nervous for Auggie before the trip? How can you tell that mom, dad, and Via were concerned for Auggie after the trip?
Do your parents or foster parents worry about you? How can you tell? How do they answer these questions?
Does it feel good or bad to have people worry about you?