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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Alien Adoption: A Book Review of Squirky 2: "What Happened to Planet Q?"

Adoption is a topic close to our heart. In many of the picture books on adoption we've read, most seem to focus on the adoptive parents' journey in finding their child and on how families can come in diverse shapes and sizes. Most have been written from a Western cultural viewpoint. 

Very few (or perhaps none at all) address the issue from the adoptive child's standpoint, of feeling "alien" in a family full of humans, and, an even more "taboo" topic, that of an adoptive child's search for his birthparents. And few have Asian references - adoption is still pretty much a scarcely mentioned topic in our society.

Enter an endearingly odd little blue alien named Squirky. Kids somehow just relate to this very obviously different character with a spiky hairdo and a frazzled grin, and everyone can relate to somehow feeling different from everyone else at one point in our lives. 
Squirky lives in a happy family with his sister Emma who is the same age as him; he does normal things like going to the park and celebrating birthdays. The difference is however that he finds out he is not the same as the rest of his family. He was adopted by them when a space capsule came shooting through the atmosphere and was found by his family. Squirky 1, Why Am I Blue? ends with him and Emma embarking on a search for his birth parents, who had left a note in the capsule asking whoever found him to look after him because they were unable to. 
As a counsellor of children, I have seen firsthand how crucial the roles of fantasy and make-believe are in the emotional lives of children. In their private story worlds, giants are conquered and mountains are overcome. Nasty bullies are defeated and, yes, adoptive kids may dream of one day meeting these people who gave them life, and whom they may take after in ways they may never know.

The Squirky series gives children permission to not just embark on a search for their biological parents (for some, that might not even matter very much). It also gives adoptive children a chance to own their amazing, miraculous and beautiful stories, of the people who love them and the role each one plays in their lives. 

The Squirky series also plays a role in, as they say in adoption language, helping adoptive parents "throw pebbles" in the often murky pond of disclosure, or the journey in dialoguing with their children about what it means to be adopted. 

And it would make a great gift for family and friends of adoptive families too, in helping children's friends understand their journeys and the correct adoption terminology, e.g. not her "own parents", but her "birth parents".
Our younger son E is fascinated with the amazing concept of outer space and
the many planets that Squirky and Emma encounter.
I can already see numerous points of discussion arising from different aspects of the book, even for children who were not adopted. Obviously Squirky feels comfortable enough to express his feelings about being different in the first book; in the second, he knows he is not alone with his sister by his side as he embarks on the search for his birth parents. 

He also learns that the truth, though hard to hear, is still what is most helpful in his journey of self discovery, and most of all, Squirky 2, What Happened to Planet Q ends on a hopeful note as he realises that he may yet find his birth parents. There is always hope.

I personally am able to appreciate the place it accords to biological parents in adoption, an issue I have been pondering about after watching a few recent films; what it means to be a mother who so decides to sacrifice her own joy in raising her child, out of love and the desire that he or she can live a good life. Perhaps I will never understand how that feels like, but I am so glad for the space that is given to the biological parents in an adoption. I believe this is crucial in the identity formation of any adoptive child.

Melanie Lee uses simple, straightforward language to bring the story across. Illustrator David "Wolfe" Liew's illustrations are likewise clean cut and expressive. The "alien" theme was at first befuddling to my young boys the first time round but upon second reading, they happily embraced the space theme (don't all kids love astronomy?) and both are looking to see what happens with the beautiful aunty Queen Stella who weeps diamond-shaped tears.
Our older son Z especially loves the picture of Queen Stella and her
diamond-shaped tears.
Melanie is an adoptive mum herself; we truly applaud her bravery in choosing to address this topic in an area where few people would venture. Her bright little boy C is friends with our boys, and of course they were thrilled to find out that the books had been written by Aunty Melanie, no less! They have since told me that I should write a book too, since C's mummy has. We are looking forward to the third instalment in the series, coming out early next year. 
Our older son Z with Melanie's son C at the launch of Squirky 2.
Best Buddies!
"That's Aunty Melanie, Mummy! Can you write a book too?"
As a Christmas giveaway, we have kindly been offered 2 copies of Squirky 2 to be given away as prizes! To enter the draw for a copy, just complete the following steps by 26 December 2014:

1. Like Parenting on Purpose's Facebook page;
2. Like Squirky the Alien's Facebook page;
3. Share this blog post on your own Facebook page. You can copy and paste this link

http://parenting-on-purpose.blogspot.sg/2014/12/alien-adoption-book-review-of-squirky-2.html

Please leave a comment on this blog post telling us you have done Steps 1-3 and include your email address so we can contact you should you win. 

For an extra chance,

4. Leave an extra comment on this blog post sharing one thing that gives you hope this Christmas. May all of us find hope this holiday season!

If you would like to purchase copies of either or both books in the series, please refer to this link.

Here are the winners for the above contest:

1. Jaime Chan
2. Carol Lim

Congratulations on winning a copy of Squirky 2! We will be in touch with you on sending you the books.

4 comments:

  1. Done all three steps.

    When I see the public and families with young children responding generously to the Boys Brigade Share-A-Gift, making home deliveries, granting wishes and buying groceries to donate, I am hopeful that there are still many caring Singaporeans around.

    Robert Sim
    robert_sim@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Done all 3 steps. I wish to see my kids giving more than receivign . in the recent santa run my kids donate brand new toys to the make a wish foundation!
    jaime chan
    chueimei@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I m a Christian so my hope lies in Jesus Christ naturally. Esp reinforced by the Advent activities I hv been doing with my kids.

    ReplyDelete