Not Quite NARWHAL – Book Review


From the Cover of Not Quite NARWHAL by 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.”



Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 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:

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.

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It’s Your Turn:

  1. How did Kelp feel about being different than his family?
  2. Why was Kelp anxious about leaving the ocean?
  3. Have you ever been nervous or anxious about doing something for the first time? What?
  4. How did Kelp feel with the unicorns (land narwhals)?
  5. Why did he want to go back to his old friends?
  6. Which world did Kelp have to choose to be a part of?
  7. Do you ever feel like you’re a part of two worlds?
  8. How do you feel like Kelp in those worlds?


Wonder – Book Review for Foster and Adoptive Families


From the Cover of Wonder by R.J Palacio:

“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?”



Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 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:

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:

  1. How did August feel getting the tour around his new school?
  2. Do foster or adoptive kids ever feel like Auggie when going to a new school? Explain.
  3. How did Auggie feel about the way he looked when eating?
  4. What is one way you look or do something that you wish you could change?
  5. What is the “cheese touch?” How did it make August feel?
  6. When do you feel like other people treat you like the “cheese touch?”
  7. How would you feel if you were August at the end of Part One?

Part Two Questions:

  1. Do you think Via feels jealous about the attention August receives?
  2. Does Via love August?
  3. Do mom and dad love Via?
  4. Do you ever find it hard to believe that people care about you?

Part Three Questions:

  1. Why does Summer befriend August?
  2. What do Summer and August talk about?
  3. What are three things that friends talk about? What about close/best friends?
  4. Why don’t the other kids want her to be friends with Auggie?
  5. How does she respond to them?
  6. How do you know that someone is your friend?
  7. What are three things that friends do for each other?

Part Four Questions:

  1. How does Jack seem to feel about his family not being as wealthy as some of the other families at school?
  2. Why do you think Jack said mean things about August at Halloween? Do those reasons make it okay?
  3. Why did Jack punch Julian? Was this a good way to handle the situation?
  4. How did Jack and August become friends again?
  5. Did Jack really feel bad about what he had done? How do you know?
  6. How does someone ask for forgiveness or tell someone they are sorry?
  7. What do you say when you accept someone’s apology?

Part Five Questions:

  1. Why do you think Justin likes Via and Auggie’s family so much?
  2. What do you think makes their family nice?
  3. 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,”?
  4. How does Justin protect Jack?
  5. Justin knows that August has difficulties in life. How does Justin feel August has a good life?
  6. You may have some difficult situations. What things are going well in your life?

Part Six Questions:

  1. Why do you think kids at school were getting tired of “The War?”
  2. Why was Auggie so stressed about the hearing aid? Was it as bad as he imagined?
  3. Why did Auggie get so mad at dinner? Why did he think the situation was about him? Was it?
  4. What does it mean when people say someone is “self-conscious?”
  5. 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:

  1. Why did Miranda make up lies about her life at camp?
  2. Do you think foster or adoptive kids ever make up stories about their life? Have you ever done that?
  3. Why do you think Miranda felt comfortable and safe in Via’s home?
  4. What things make you feel comfortable and safe in a home?

Part Eight Questions:

  1. Why was Auggie nervous about the camping trip?
  2. What makes you nervous about sleeping in a new room? Being in a dark room?
  3. What did Auggie like about camp?
  4. Why did the other guys from Breecher Prep help Jack and Auggie?
  5. How can you tell that mom, dad, and Via were worried about Auggie?
  6. 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?
  7. Do your parents or foster parents worry about you? How can you tell? How do they answer these questions?
  8. Does it feel good or bad to have people worry about you?
  9. How would people say you’re a wonder?


Parenting Strategies to Help Adopted and Fostered Children with Their Behavior – Foster Care and Adoption Book Review


From the Cover of Parenting Strategies to Help Adopted and Fostered Children with Their Behavior by Christine Gordon:

“Although traumatized children rarely respond to traditional parenting strategies, there are proven ‘developmental reparenting’ techniques that will help a child by validating their feelings, boosting self-esteem and encouraging open and honest conversations.

This parent-friendly guide uses easy to understand language to explain the latest science and research relating to trauma and its impact on the brain and executive functioning. Includes 35 downloadable action charts that address some of the very hardest challenges for parents and carers, from inappropriate sexualized behavior and overfamiliarity with strangers through to tantrums, food issues and deception.”

About the Author:

“Christine Gordon is the co-founder of Family Futures adoption agency in London and founder of ADAPT Scotland, which offers parenting and therapeutic support to adoptive and foster parents caring for traumatized children.”



Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 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 was written to be a tool for foster or adoptive parents to help children with their behaviors. The book is split into two different parts:

Part one makes up the trauma-informed guidance, understanding the behavior and how to help. Part two addresses the behaviors themselves in an action chart fashion.

Part one…

In part one, Ms. Gordon does a wonderful job detailing the background information on why behavioral difficulties may be displayed. She discusses the impact of early trauma and the science behind what is happening in the child’s brain. She stresses the importance of attachment, and describes the different types of attachment. Ms. Gordon goes into great detail to emphasize the importance of developmental reparenting; how meeting the needs of the traumatized children will repair trauma from earlier life experiences. She goes on to explain this is the goal of this book, to teach parents, caregivers, and teachers strategies to put developmental reparenting into practice.

Executive functioning is another subject Ms. Gordon discusses. She explains where the difficulties manifest and gives examples of what that might look like. A rather important part of this book, used in both parts, is the BRIEF questionnaire (The Behavior Rating of Executive Functioning). Ms. Gordon breaks down each domain, explains what the domain is, what it looks like in behavior, how it needs to work in our children, and gives examples of parenting strategies to help in that specific domain. This part of the book is later used to help the reader understand and utilize the action charts in part 2.

Part two…

In part two, Ms. Gordon gives the reader a bunch of action charts for specific behaviors. These charts can also be found online and are printable. The charts list some specific behavior problems that many traumatized children display. Some examples are: acting the victim, food issues, intense sibling rivalry, and lying. Each chart has the following sections:

  • observed behavior
  • attachment/developmental trauma issue (what can i do?)
  • trigger (what can I do?)
  • BREIF graphic
  • further reflections

These charts have some incredibly useful information that is quick and easy to reference. Ms. Gordon includes a blank template for the reader to use to develop their own action chart.

This book is not set up to be read cover to cover per say, but instead can be flipped through to find the different topics that apply to the reader. Ms. Gordon has packed in some very useful knowledge which can be utilized with different age children and across many different types of caregivers. This book helps shift caregivers mind set to developmental reparenting and attachment.

Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:

It’s Your Turn:

  1. What in this book impacted you most?
  2. Have you heard of the phrase,”developmental reparenting”? Share an example of how you are using this in your home already.
  3. Have you used any of the action charts in your home or created your own using the template?
  4. Are there any parenting methods you will change as a result of reading this book?