By Awnali Mills
Flora and Julien are foster kids who have finally found a forever home—or at least, that’s what their adoptive parents tell them. But then again, they’ve been promised that before, so trust is hard to come by. They’re kids with lots of problems. Flora has trouble talking, and Julien hides food in his room. They know they’re a lot of trouble to deal with, so their fear of being abandoned escalates when their new mom gets pregnant. Will there be enough love to go around? If they’re perfect, maybe they can stay with their mom and dad.
But perfect is really hard to do.
It’s even harder when their mom realizes that Flora and Julien believe that they were not born. They just came into being. They have lots of theories as to how this happened, but they know that if you are born, then you have a real mom and a dad, and they don’t remember having them. If you are born, then someone must have loved you once upon a time, and they don’t remember that. All they remember is a white house and not enough food, and not-safe. So their family sets out to find the truth. Where did Flora and Julien come from? And will the answer devastate them all?
This was a fantastic book. I haven’t read a book about foster kids this well done since The Great Gilly Hopkins (not that I’ve read them all—I haven’t.) There’s a bi-racial family, bi-racial kids, foster kids, adoptive kids, step kids/families, and biological children/parents. There’s bad behavior and good parenting, with lots of love for everyone. The story touches on the plight of gay couples who were not allowed to adopt, and the tragedy of families who only want perfect children. Flora and Julien’s family is messy and imperfect, and wonderful all at the same time.
I think this book would really touch kids who have families that don’t look like stereotypical, generic families, and much of the book is dealing with the question of what families really do look like. Does everyone have to look the same? Have the same last name? Do they have to live together? Is it only about who you love and who loves you?
Ms. Carter doesn’t shy away from the hard questions, like do parents love their biological children more? Are biological children “real” children, but adoptive kids aren’t? This book is for everyone who has a messy family (um, all of us?), or who would like to understand the confusion that kids (and adults) face about these big questions. For grades 3-5.