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Review: Ten Days, Nine Nights

March 7, 2012

Yesterday at the Library, the girls and I discovered a lovely new picture book about adoption, Ten Days and Nine Nights, written and illustrated by Yumi Heo. Ten Days is a count-down story in which a girl says goodbye to her mommy at the airport on day ten and chronicles her life at home with her father while her mother’s trip story also unfolds in pictures. On the last day, the little girl’s mommy flies home with a new baby sister.

There are clues that this is a Korean adoption story: Hangul on signs, a Korean flag on a desk at an agency. The adopting family may be Korean, or not; the art is nicely ambiguous. The older sister waiting at home for her new sibling is definitely a girl, but the story doesn’t declare whether she’s the biological or adopted child of her parents. She just is, which is a lovely touch.

My girls, of course, read their own stories into it and assumed she is waiting at home just like their older sister(s) waited at home for them to come home. They didn’t enter into the waiting story –which they might have if readily if we had and adoption trip pending. Instead, they used the story to explore their own experience leaving Korea. Mommy flying to Korea, finding the agency, meeting the social worker, visiting with the baby and her foster mother, flying home with the baby on her lap, walking into her home airport wearing the baby.

The book, with only a dozen words per page, is aimed at younger children. (Although that didn’t stop Mercy, 8, and Hope, 7, from falling into the story.) The power of the story is transmitted through the art, as it should be in a great picture book. The story of the little girl telling the story is told in a full pallet of color while the mom’s story, once she leaves, is painted in cool, distant colors –except for the mom herself who is the warm color on every page.

Overall it is a very warm, positive story. The little girl at home isn’t distressed at her mom’s absence, at the same time she obviously can’t wait for her to come home. The adoption side of the story is also very positive. Everyone at home, including extended family, warmly anticipates the new baby’s arrival and everyone in Korea beams their love for the baby who is about to  leave.

Some might quibble that the absence of tears makes Ten Days, Nine Nights unrealistic. Hope had no problem reading her own story into it. “Except I didn’t lay there happily on your lap!” she observed on the page depicting the plane ride home. “I made you and daddy walk up and down the aisles all the way home!” :).

But I don’t think absolute realism was the artist’s intent. Instead, Yumi Heo succeeds very well at communicating a more fundamental truth to adopted children: you are loved.

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