A lot of heavy concepts are covered in Angela Johnson’s Heaven: adoption, death, identity, and broken trust. It’s a lot for readers to take in. You would think that it’s too much for a middle-grade book but, when you’re going through some of the same raw emotions as the main character, complex topics become easier to swallow. Reading the book growing up, we understood how emotionally raw a situation like this might have felt. But there are also some beautiful things to discover as well: love, family, and the feeling of home. Young readers looking for similar books full of family and hope might enjoy the following books:
- A Secret Shared by Patricia MacLachlan
When little Birdy sees her mother spitting in a tube, she decides it looks like a lot of fun and wants to do it too. Luckily, it just so happens that her mother bought two DNA tests. When her father turns down the opportunity to participate, Birdy decides to spit into the second tube and send it off too. Her twin siblings, Nora and Ben, help her thinking it’ll be fun… but then the results come back and it turns out that Birdy is seemingly not related to their parents. Is she adopted? If so, how could this have happened without her siblings knowing? Should Nora and Ben reveal their secret? Who can they go to for help? And, most importantly, what does this mean for their family?
- For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama Lockington
Makeda June Kirkland is 11 years old and a transracial adoptee. Her parents and big sister love her dearly but don’t seem to understand that their racial differences leave her feeling like an outcast. The only one who truly understands her is her best friend Lena, another adopted black girl. Unfortunately, she’s leaving her behind as her family moves from Maryland to New Mexico. Everything is worse there. Her big sister suddenly decides she’s too cool to hang out with Makeda. She struggles to make friends at school. She also can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be in a family of people who look like her. Readers will love this heartfelt middle-grade fiction told through poetry and letters.
- I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
Edie has always known that her mother was adopted by a white couple. Despite being desperately curious about her Native American heritage, she’s always assumed her mother didn’t know anything about her biological family. How could she? But when Edie stumbles upon photographs of a woman who looks like she could be her twin, right down to the tooth gap they share, she has to wonder if there are things her mother isn’t telling her. Who is this mysterious woman, who even shares her name? It can’t be a relative on her father’s side of the family. But if it’s a family member on her mother’s side, why hasn’t she ever mentioned them? Does Edie even have the courage to ask?
Teens and adults looking for books that explore families might try some of these titles:
- Someone Like You by Karen Kingsbury
There’s so much happening in Someone Like You, we felt that only the book jacket summary could do it justice: “Maddie West is shaken to the core when she finds out that everything she believed about her life was a lie. Her parents had always planned to tell her the truth about her past: that she was adopted as an embryo. But somehow the right moment never happened. Now, the total stranger who confronts Maddie with the truth tells her something else that rocks her world — Maddie had a sister she never knew about. Feeling betrayed, angry, and confused, Maddie leaves her new job and fiancé, rejects her family’s requests for forgiveness, and moves to Portland, Oregon, to find out who she really is. Dawson Gage’s life is destroyed when London Quinn, the only girl he had ever loved, is killed. In the hospital waiting room, London’s mother reveals to Dawson that London might have had a sibling — the frozen embryo she and her husband donated decades ago. When Dawson invites Maddie to Portland to connect with her long-lost relatives, the Quinns, her biological parents, welcome her into their lives. Maddie is intrigued by their memories of London, who was so much like her. Is this the family and the life she was really meant to have?”
- The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
Ruth Tuttle is an Ivy-League educated Black engineer living in Chicago and married to a kind and caring man, Xavier. He wants to start a family but Ruth’s memories of the child she gave birth to and left behind still haunt her. Against her family’s wishes, she travels back to her home state to see if she can find out what happened to her child and reconcile with her past. While there, she ends up befriending a white teenager nicknamed Midnight and a pseudo-motherly relationship develops. Through their connection, Ruth learns of the racial tensions skyrocketing in her little town and what happened to the child she gave up so long ago.
- My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa
Paloma Evans lucked out when she was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage, the Little Miracles Girls Home, by a wealthy western couple. She’s enjoyed the best that money could have provided for her: elite schooling, compassionate parents, and life in America that she could have only dreamed of. But did she squander her good fortune? Pushing her mid-30s, cut off from her parents’ funds, and engaging in some questionable business ventures to make ends meet, Paloma is disappointed to find that her life isn’t perfect. When her new subletter threatens to blackmail her, only to turn up dead, she’s terrified that someone has discovered her dark secrets.
This blog is created by Hannah and Ella in conjunction with the These Books Made Me podcast, a Prince George’s County Memorial Library System production. Check out the corresponding episode on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you normally listen to podcasts.