Jan M. Czech’s story of international adoption – The Coffee Can Kid - is illuminated by Maurie J. Manning’s large, bright illustrations.
The story shows Annie, a young girl adopted from a far away land, reach into a closet to bring out a coffee can with special items related to her adoption story. Her father holds her and shares some of her story with her. She was born far away to a single woman. Though the woman lived with her mother, the woman was too young and the grandmother too old to care for the baby. She had no money and no husband. She gave the baby a special name and then took her to a child home to be adopted, again, because she did not have enough money. The child home found new parents for Annie, parents in the United States. The coffee can holds a letter from the birth mother, which the American parents cannot read but for which they do have a general translation, and a photograph from the day Annie was relinquished. Annie wonders where her birth mother is; her father expresses, “I wonder too. I don’t know.”
This book does show the importance of pre-adoption history. Annie knows her birth name and its meaning, and a bit of how she came to live with her parents. She knows she can look at her pictures whenever she wants. The book shows that it’s OK to ask questions, even if your parent doesn’t know the answers.
My concerns with the book are the circumstances of Annie’s adoption. Her birth mother is portrayed as choosing adoption because of financial issues. Annie’s parents had money. Annie never asks why they didn’t just give the birth mother money. The issue of openness is never broached; Annie never asks why there is no contact between her birth mother and her American mom and dad. The book falls short of perfection, but it still encourages open communication between adoptive parents and adoptees. And that’s an important start.
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