if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

Another lovely review for RED BUTTERFLY!

thumb_RedButterflyThanks to the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books for this lovely review of Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen!

“Even though I look Chinese/ I’m American on the inside.” So says eleven-year-old Kara, protagonist of this verse novel, who was abandoned as an infant in Tianjin (not only is she a girl, she has a disfigured hand) and taken in by an American living in China. Life with her American mother has been loving but limited, because her mother has illegally overstayed her visa and Kara was never officially adopted, so there’s little money and Kara hasn’t been able to go to school. When Kara’s visiting adult half-sister ends up in the hospital, the authorities catch up to Kara’s situation; Kara finds herself in a Chinese orphanage, waiting for adoption by a U.S. family but hoping to be reunited with her now-deported foster mother. The story is unusual and compelling, and Kara’s viewpoint is plausibly conveyed—she’s anxious about the scarcity of money, but she never really questions the family situation until she begins to put together bits of information. It’s shocking just how stranded Kara really is, and it’s understandable that she’s resistant at first when she moves to her new adoptive family’s home in Florida. While there’s some appropriate implicit criticism of Kara’s foster mother, the book also respects Kara and Mama’s bond, and Kara’s ability to stay connected with Mama and with her friends in the orphanage is part of the successful synthesis of her experience that gives her a happy ending. Both an individually compelling tale and an acknowledgment of the complexity of adoption, this would draw readers moved by Peacock’s Red Thread Sisters (BCCB 11/12). Small black and white vignettes intriguingly combine digital patterning with sometimes scratchy, sometimes fluid, ink strokes, making vivid use of the generous margins. An author’s note relates her own experience in Hong Kong and China and notes that Kara’s story is based on the true experiences of many unofficial adoptive families there. DS

Congrats, Amy!