Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Red Blanket

Thomas, Eliza. 2004. THE RED BLANKET. Ill. by Joe Cepeda. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439322537 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

This is the poignant story of a single woman who longs to adopt a child. She contacts an adoption agency and eventually receives a photograph of a baby girl named PanPan who lives in an orphanage in China. The woman travels to China and adopts PanPan, but the first day together is very difficult. PanPan cries all day. Nothing quiets her until her mother remembers a red blanket she had brought to China. Under the blanket, PanPan is comforted and the bonding between mother and daughter begins. Many years later, PanPan still cherishes the now faded but special blanket.

Narrated by the mother as she addresses her daughter, this story is beautifully told in simple language. For example, in describing her life prior to adopting PanPan, the mother narrates, “The house was filled with pictures to look at and books to read and even a beautiful piano I played every day. But still, it felt empty.” Thomas also cleverly describes the passage of time in a way that young children can understand. She writes, “Deep snows fell, then melted into a muddy spring…. Summer came and went, and the mornings grew crisp and cool.” Perhaps the greatest strength of the text is that it avoids romanticism. The story is touching, yet honest. In describing the first day together, the mother says, “You cried and cried until I felt like weeping, too, and by evening time, we were both very tired. I laid you down and bent to kiss you. You just turned your face away.” Cepeda’s vibrant illustrations are a perfect complement. The joy the young woman feels upon receiving PanPan’s photograph is obvious—she is jumping in the yard as the neighbors standby smiling. Children will enjoy the colorful, expressive art. Young readers will connect with the familial theme while adopted children are likely to identify more acutely with the story.

Children can identify an item that has special significance for them (e.g. stuffed animal, toy, blanket, book, etc.). They can discuss why it is important to them.

Other books about international adoption (China):
Lewis, Rose A. I LOVE YOU LIKE CRAZY CAKES. ISBN 0316525383
Peacock, Carol Antoinette. MOMMY FAR, MOMMY NEAR. ISBN 0807552348

By S. Zulema Silva Bewley

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