Adoption Book Club: Megan’s Birthday Tree

Open Adoption Book Club @ OpenAdoptionBloggers.com
The Open Adoption Bloggers have started a book club. We read a book that deals with open adoption, then we write about it on our blogs. Simple and fun. Our first book is Megan’s Birthday Tree, a children’s picture book.

In Megan’s Birthday Tree, Megan is an adopted child who knows and has contact with her birthmother, Kendra. After Megan was born, Kendra planted a tree in her front yard. Each year, she decorates it and sends pictures to Megan. One day, Megan gets a note from Kendra: Kendra is getting married and will be moving. Megan immediately worries about what will happen to the tree. More to the point, if Kendra doesn’t have the tree anymore, will she forget Megan?

I think the book is sweet. I read it to Jackson, and he liked it, but that was all he said about it. “It was good.” Anything else? “No.” OK. It’s a perfectly acceptable book about adoption, and it is nice to have the open adoption aspect in a picture book format. Many adoption books for kids don’t talk about birth parents at all.

That said, I just didn’t really connect with this book. Everyone is white, and Megan resembles both her birthmother and her adoptive parents. I know that happens in real life, it’s just not my experience.

Now, this may sound strange, but I really wonder how realistic it is for a birthmother to be able to plant a tree and maintain it, year after year. S has never had her own home, and has moved more times than I can count. Laine has already had three residences in Cassie’s short life. Thinking about the people I know, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the premise of the story to apply to them. I do know some birthmothers who have their own homes, or, if they’re younger, who live in their parents’ homes, and I suppose they would be able to plant trees. It just doesn’t seem likely. I think a better premise would have been that Kendra goes to a particular doughnut shop every year on Megan’s birthday and gets two chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles, because that’s what she always craved when she was pregnant with Megan. Of course, then the book really does get tied to the location, and the ending would have had to be different.

This is a good book about open adoption from a child’s point of view. I could see it going into the library of non-adopted kids, because it explains open adoption in a simple and forthright way. I’m probably overthinking the premise. I do that.

Heather at Open Adoption Bloggers distributed some discussion questions.

What do you think about the illustrations of Megan as a caucasian girl? By the text, she doesn’t have to be any one race, but by adding illustrations, she’s clearly a white girl.
What do you think about the illustrations of the other characters? That Megan looks a lot like Kendra and that the adoptive parents have similar coloring.

I prefer picture books that have more diversity in them. As a white parent of brown children, I think it’s important to have books that reflect many different kinds of families. Most books, however, feature white families. Because Megan, Kendra, and her adoptive parents were all illustrated to resemble one another, I just didn’t connect with the book as well as I might have. I know Jackson picks up on skin color in books too. I wonder if he would have liked the book better if anyone was brown.

I also think that transracial adoption is happening more and more these days. Many of the adoptive families I know are interracial. I think I only know one family in which the adopted child resembles her parents, and that family is a black family. Although it does happen that white people adopt white babies who look like them, I’m not sure this is the norm anymore. It would have been nice to see more diversity in the book.

Megan’s birth mother planted a tree when she was born, and decorates it yearly to remember her birth. Do you have something special that you do to celebrate your child’s birth or adoption?

We celebrate our children’s birthdays of course. On Jackson’s Adoption Day, we usually give him 3 presents: a book, a toy, and a stuffed animal. For years, the stuffed animal was a cow, because that’s his animal. Two years ago, he said he had enough cows and wanted to branch out. So, we got him a horse his 5th year and a dragon his 6th year. When we started, the books were always adoption-centric. Then, he said he had enough adoption books (and we do have a lot), so for the last two years, the books have been more about diversity. For his 5th year, we got The Family Book, which talks about different kinds of families, and for his 6th year, we got him a book about Martin Luther King, Jr.

We’ll do the same for Cassie on her Adoption Day. For the record, her animal is the honeybee, because it’s the state insect of LA.

The book was categorized by the publisher as one of its “issue books,” dealing with “children’s problems and special needs.” Other books in the series address topics like autism, epilepsy, and stuttering. What do think about a book on open adoption being characterized that way?

Well, I’ve heard people say, “All children are special needs.” Children who are adopted do face different issues than children who live with their biological parents. Would I compare being adopted to being autistic? No. But I don’t think that categorizing the book as “dealing with ‘children’s problems and special needs'” is a bad thing. Megan is dealing with a problem: She thinks her birthmother is going to forget about her. That problem is unique to adopted children, which makes it special.

9 thoughts on “Adoption Book Club: Megan’s Birthday Tree

  1. Yes! As you know 😉 I agree with you about the idealized nature of the premise. It was interesting – I asked P’ito if he had noticed that Megan and her parents looked alike and we don’t and he said yes, but it didn’t bother him.

  2. I enjoyed your review and especially liked your answer to the last question. It had bothered me to know that the book was categorized as “special needs.” But you are right, that doesn’t have to be a negative.

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful review. I like what you have to say about the struggles some birth moms have with staying in one place–sometimes, I understand, that very impermanence is one of the factors that led them to make an adoption plan in the first place. So, in that perspective, planting a tree might not represent a possible reality.

    I do wish there was more diversity in books like these. I was describing to another blogger a set of Hallmark dolls, each of which had a different skin color. Each came with a book whose character matched the doll. Maybe there should be something similar for adoptive families.

    • Exactly – there are many factors that may lead to placement, and the lack of a permanent home may be one of them. It certainly was for Jackson’s birthmom.
      One of the bloggers from the book club – 4 Wild Blueberries, I think – mentioned that all of the adoption books she has are about transracial adoption, and her family is all Caucasian. I commented that the books we had with people in them include white families with white children. Obviously, we’re just looking at different books.
      I think the idea of adoption books with different dolls is an excellent one! Now, who do you ask to market that?

  4. I really enjoyed reading this review. in addition to your initial thoughts, I liked reading about the rituals you share with each of your kids. and loved your answer to the last Q.

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