Allison. Allen Say (1997).
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Allen Say does not stray far from his usual topic of Asian-American identities in Allison. This work, like so many of his other books like Grandfather’s Journey or Tea with Milk, is gorgeously rendered with almost creamy life-like watercolors. Each page feels almost like a snapshot of Allison’s life as she realizes out of the blue that she looks more like her doll Mei-Mei than her adoptive parents. Older readers (gr. 1-3) are better equipped to understand Allison’s reaction as she lashes out at her parents while struggling to accept that she is not their biological child. The snapshot quality of the images leads the book to feel almost like a family photo album, which helps to stress the themes of family, identity, and acceptance. Allison’s emotional journey is book ended by the appearance of a stray cat outside her window, a surrogate stand-in for herself who helps her understand what adoption means. This work deals very tastefully and gently with the topic of adoption, not sugarcoating feelings of rejection, but also ending on a positive note. Readers of this work may also enjoy Jin Woo, by Eve Bunting, another work that explores the themes of family identities and adoption.
For the zero of you reading this blog, this review is written in a somewhat more professional way than the others...it was for a class last year. And I totally got an A (self high five). HOWEVER - this blog is not tots profesh, so let me tell you how I really feel. True story, I love Allen Say. He is one of the rare children's book authors/illustrators who has made me cry. At work. In front of children. I am. A big sap. And the pictures are so so pretty, and so so simple. I shake my fist at you and your magic tear producing powers, Senor Say! Shake shake shake! (Keep up the good work.)