Parents Wanted – Book Review

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From the Cover of Parents Wanted by George Harrar:

“Andy Fleck doesn’t have much of a family. His dad has been in jail since Andy was ten and his mother gave him up to the state as “too hard to handle.”

A kid with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Andy has learned one set of rules from his birth dad (how not to manipulate adults). Placed with adoptive parents Jeff and Laurie, he has a chance to escape his past. But he can’t keep himself from challenging every limit that is set. He plays “mailbox baseball” with Jeff’s Ted Williams bat, eats worms, gets in trouble at school, and, when his birth dad shows up looking for money, steals Jeff’s wallet.

Despite his antics, it’s easy to see that Andy is a good kid dealing with his own tangle of emotions. And so far his adoptive parents have refused to give up on him. But will he go too far?”

Grade:

5 hoots out of 5

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

What Our Family Thought:

This book appears to be a tale suited best for kids ages 11 – 15. However, this story seems good also for kids all the way up through the age of 18. Parents Wanted is a chapter book with 239 pages and won a Milkweed Prize for children’s literature. While the book was written for the general public, it seems to do a great job of directly speaking to the issues and concerns of a foster (and even an adoptive) family.

As the synopsis above states this tale does involve a 12 year old boy, Andy Fleck, who was given up into the foster care system because his birth mother simply did not believe she could handle him. Andy’s birth father is absent in his life due to incarceration from his “profession” as a thief. Andy has experienced several foster homes and is living in a home (orphanage) for boys at the beginning of the story. The tale quickly moves Andy into the home of foster parents, Jeff and Laurie, who intend to adopt Andy after the mandated six month fostering period.

The story is told from the point of view of Andy. Throughout the story the reader is introduced to Andy’s thoughts and philosophy on living, adults and parents. Much of Andy’s thinking has been skewed by his past trauma and we believe that the book does an excellent job of staying true to how a child might feel in this situation. Alternately, the book seems to do well in expressing the thoughts, frustrations and pride of the foster parents.

Since this book seems to do a fantastic job of portraying the thoughts and life of a foster family, it allows for the best conversations starters in your foster/adoptive home. Upon completion of this book in our family’s home, we have had at least two incidents within a few days of being able to use the book to express feelings in the home. Both our kids and us, the adoptive parents, have been able to say, “Remember when “such and such” happened in the book? That’s how I feel right now.” The book also refreshingly paints a good picture of foster parents as people that are committed to a child and will care for a child.

Transfiguring Adoption believes that this book will have a great impact on your family since it opens up so many opportunities for conversations. However, it is best to forewarn you that due to the fact that this book so well depicts the thoughts and feelings of foster child character, Andy Fleck, it could potentially trigger your child about their past trauma.

The book does deal with Andy’s feelings and thoughts about:

  • Being given up to the foster care system
  • Wanting to move back in with his birth parents
  • Negative situations in various foster homes
  • Fear of being touched in areas linked to abuse
  • And More

Overall, we would have to say that this book completely nailed the feelings and emotions found in a foster home situation. Like all great tools there is the potential for it to trigger unpleasant thoughts and trauma. Transfiguring Adoption strongly suggests that this be a book that you, the caregiver, read together with your child and allow yourself to be available for conversation throughout the following days. However, the book is receiving our highest score due to the facts that it is a quality story which has the potential to create healthy and healing conversations in your family.

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It’s Your Turn:

  1. What did Andy like about his foster dad? foster mom?
  2. Why did Andy think that his foster mom, Laurie, didn’t like him?
  3. What did Andy have to get used to living with his new foster family? What changes did Jeff and Laurie have to make?
  4. What did Andy’s foster dad say he would have to do because of the broken mailbox? What would you have told Andy if you were Jeff? Did the foster dad, Jeff, do the right thing? Why/Whynot?
  5. What did you think about the part when Andy stole from his teacher? What would you have told Andy?
  6. How did Jeff feel when Andy told him the truth about the wallet?
  7. How do you lose trust?
  8. What did you think about Andy’s final and biggest lie in the book?
  9. Jeff wouldn’t look at Andy after this big lie or even talk to Andy much? What does that mean? How was Jeff feeling?
  10. Jeff and Laurie loved and cared for Andy. Does that mean that the family was always happy? After reading the book, what does a “loving family” mean to you?

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