In November 2009, my family was blessed to add to their ranks, Faith FengHua - an adorable 3 year old from Wuhan, China (for more of our remarkable story visit our Adoption Blog).
Aware of my adoption story and of my love for all things books, I was asked to review the Anna Mei series by Carol Grund, by Pauline Books & Media. Although my daughter has different challenges than main character Anna Mei, primarily Faith is profoundly deaf and was a preschooler when she became a part of her forever family, I was intrigued to see how the character was portrayed and how the author dealt with the issues of adoption and those dreaded late-adolescent/pre-teen years! Hormones and peer pressure, as compatible as hydrogen and oxygen!
The basic premise of Cartoon Girl, the first in the series, 11-year-old Anna Mei, who was adopted from China as an infant, moves from Boston to small town Michigan, she finds herself questioning her identity, family history, and more as she seeks to fit in. This could be the struggle of any preteen, and as I read through the book, I was transported myself back to middle school!
Author Carol Grund dealt tactfully and efficaciously with the key points issues for adopted children - especially figuring out how to mingle their birth heritage with their adopted family's background. These are things I anticipate forthcoming for my daughter, especially because we have not focused more on Faith's Deaf culture, than her Chinese culture. We do pray, she will be able to interweave them as beautifully as Grund's character, Anna Mei (after some uncertainty) did.
Grund also deals with hot button topics for all adolescents whether you are hearing or deaf, adopted or biological, Catholic or have no religion religious affiliate at all. The main character wrestles with belonging in her new school, choosing the "popular girls" although she finds very little in common over making true friends for fear of being excluded in any group. She misjudges somebody based on their appearance, I think even adults can learn from her lessons are there!
She questions her identity and her family one of my favorite lines is the mother calls Anna Mei, "daughter of my heart". That brought tears to my eyes, the minute I read it, as those words really spoke to me. I often share a story about my daughter and my two biological sons and my fear that I would not love her is much as I loved the boys since I gave birth to them I learned very quickly that that is not true. That she is my daughter chosen for us from God; He just chose a different way to bring her home to us. I tease it was my favorite 'pregnancy' because I never had to give up beer!! And since she is only nine and the boys are both teenagers, I often tease I actually love her more than I love them!
I will definitely be sharing these books with the Moms of all the little girls we were blessed to share our adoption adventure with back in 2009. I think we could all learn something from Anna Mei's experiences, especially when it came time to write her social studies reports about her heritage. Those are difficult questions that come with adopted children who know very little or nothing about the family of origin that they were born into. Given that my daughter was found in the hospital parking lot with no note giving her birth name or birthday, I was actually a little envious of Anna Mei's special little note attached to the baby. I pray it is not difficult for my daughter to realize one day that she does not know her actual birthday or birth name. We pray that our love for her and our deep desire to be her parents, will overshadow any void she may feel. These books are always on her bookshelf waiting for her to be able to read them in just a few short years!
Carol Grund's writing is entertaining, and I have to admit at times page turning. The characters felt authentic and engaging. The plot realistic -- boy could I relate to the busy working mom! The characters have depth and emotion - I felt tears well more than once, and I laughed out loud. The next 2 in the series, did not disappoint.
Disclaimer: While sent the books for review by Pauline Books & Media, they did not coerce me into falling in love with all three of Carol Grund's Anna Mei books, and sincerely hope you will pick up all three for the young girl in your life!