Fictional Foster Families
May is National Foster Care Awareness month. In addition to praying for foster children and families, I decided to read and review books in which fostering plays a major role. From Pippi Longstocking to Harry Potter, children’s literature is filled with stories of orphans, many who discover extraordinary things about their origins or go on to achieve royal status. Though I appreciate Pippi and Harry (not to mention Mowgli and Cinderella), I wanted to read about more ordinary children who encountered loss and, hopefully, redemption.
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Katherine Paterson, beloved author of The Bridge to Terabithia, said she wrote The Great Gilly Hopkins because she “flunked as a foster mother.” She asked herself the question, “How would I feel if people treated me as though I were disposable?” and Gilly is the answer. Gilly is not the most likable character throughout most of the book, but the small, slow changes in her seem realistic. Through the love of three unlikely heroes, she learns how to overcome her own racial prejudice and intellectual pride, as well as her fear, in order to allow herself to love and be loved. I was sad, as most readers are bound to be, by the outcome of the story, but it did give me a small glimpse of the insecurity and pain that come from being passed from family to family. Parents might want to be aware that though the target audience for this book is 9-12 years old, there is some mild profanity and a reference to a racial slur.
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
Pictures of Hollis Woods alternates between flashbacks to Hollis’s past described through her drawings, focusing mainly on her last summer in upstate New York with a loving family, the Regans, and her present situation where she has been placed with an eccentric and forgetful, but loving caretaker, Jessie. Convinced she messed everything up with the Regans, she is determined to do everything in her power to not be separated from Jessie. Despite her trials, there is a glimmer of hope that runs through the story and a happy ending. I loved this sweet story and I can’t wait to pass it on to my daughter. (It has also been made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.)
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullay Hunt
When a betrayal from her mother lands her in a loving foster home, twelve-year-old Carly Conners dares to believe that happy families might exist. My thirteen-year-old daughter and I loved this book, even though we both cried through the second half. Needless to say it is a tearjerker to the end, but the sorrow is tempered with humor, tender family moments, a quirky new friend, and undeniable hope. The short chapters and quick pace make it an easy read, but the content provides groundwork for deeper conversation.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
I have found it challenging to find quality realistic middle grade fiction with boy protagonists, but my fourth grade son has been reading Bud, Not Buddy for school and I asked if I could borrow it for a weekend. It is the story of ten-year-old Bud who has been living alternately in an orphanage and in temporary foster homes in Flint, Michigan in the 1930s. After being mistreated in one of the homes, he sets off on an adventure to find his biological father with only a few simple clues his mother left behind. The first few chapters were so sad they were almost painful to read, but things begin to look up for Bud around the middle of the book as he triumphs over great odds and meets a hosts of memorable characters that help him along the way. I started off skeptical, but loved it in the end and I found Curtis’s writing to be equally beautiful and hilarious.
For more information about Foster Care Awareness go to http://icareaboutorphans.org