"Pugnose Has Two Special Families" isn't the slickest children's book about adoption you'll ever see. It's bound with staples, needs a bit of editing, and sometimes tells when it could show. But I absolutely love having it in our home library for several reasons.
First, the main character is an adopted mouse who has ongoing contact with his birthparents. "I have two families--my birthfamily and my adoptive family," he says. "When we are all together, it seems like one big family." Children's books that mirror the openness of many domestic adoptions are not easy to find. It is nice to see it reflected here.
Second, the birthparents are actual characters in the story. Sometimes first parents are mentioned in children's books, but not included in the illustrations. Pugnose's first parents are shown several times, both before and after his birth. We see them with interacting with Pugnose and he talks about traits he shares with them. Even more unusually, the birthfather character is included. Since Puppy's first dad is part of his life, it's nice for us to have a book which includes a birthfather.
Third, it acknowledges that Pugnose had a history prior to his adoption. So many adoption books for kids begin at the point of placement and make it seem as if their adoption was a forgone conclusion from the moment of their conception. Pugnose's birthmom tells him stories about when he was growing inside her and how much she loved him. He tells us, "She thought about trying to be my mama herself, and she thought about adoption, too. She finally chose open adoption so she could see me as I was growing up."
Finally, it touches on the sorrow that accompanies adoption. Everyone is happy Pugnose has been born, but also sad. His birthparents are sad they are not ready to parent him and because they will miss him. His adoptive family is sad because they know his birthfamily is hurting. It's a good example of how sadness can be acknowledged even in what is overall a positive presentation of adoption.
I've seen this book listed for ages ranging from 4-10. I'd probably bump that range down a few years to 2-8. It's still a little wordy for Puppy right now (at 1 1/2), but he enjoys the colorful pictures. As in every adoption book, not all the details will apply to every family's situation (for instance, there is an adoption agency involved), but the general outline of the story will likely fit most domestic open adoptions.
(written & illustrated by Karis Kruzel, R-Squared Press, 1996)