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Saturday, June 25, 2011

mother number zero, written by Marjolijn Hof and translated by Johanna H. Prins and Johanna W. Prins. Groundwood, 2011. $12.95 ages 9 and up

""Who was my mother?" I asked.
My father put down his knife. "Your
biological mother?"
"Biological" was such a dumb word.
It made me think of organic rice and
other stuff from the health food store
on Main Street. Not a word for a
particular kind of mother.
"Yes," I said. "That's the one I mean.""

Fay has never really worried much about his birth mother. He thinks he knows what he needs to know about her. His parents have been open in discussing the circumstances of his birth and the subsequent adoption. As he is leaving elementary school and readying himself for middle school in the fall, he meets Maud. Maud is new to the neighborhood and has an inquisitive nature. She is impressed with Fay's artistic abilities, as Fay loves to sit and sketch from his natural surroundings.

She begins asking questions about his 'mother number zero' and they set Fay to wondering about her, too. He knows that she was a pregnant refugee from Bosnia who gave her baby up to a better life. But, Fay wonders if she will ever play a role in  his future. The decision to search her out is made quickly. When he expresses these feelings to his family, he has no idea the kind of effect it will have on them, or himself. It is particularly difficult for his Chinese sister, an abandoned baby who has no way of finding her own birth family. As we read we know that Fay will have all he needs from loving, supportive parents in his quest for identity.  The ending is reaffirming and completely suits this brilliantly crafted tale.
Marjolijn Hof tells her story with honesty, and subtlety. The characters are direct in their responses, and deal with issues of family and belonging with candor and honesty. Told with heart, and sensitivity to the issues that still surround adoption she has created a story that will resonate with many and would be a wonderful book to share in families and classrooms.

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