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Allison Hardcover – October 27, 1997

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 3. As he did in Stranger in the Mirror (Houghton, 1995), Say uses a glimpsed reflection to probe the ramifications of recognition. In the earlier title, the subject was aging; here, Say turns to adoption. When readers first encounter Allison, she is opening a package containing a red kimono just like the one worn by her doll. The whole family faces a mirror for her to see herself in her new garment, and she sees that her doll's hair is "straight and dark like hers." When she realizes that she does not look like her mother or father, her smile fades. Questions about the doll's origin lead to the discovery of her adoption. What follows are some lonely scenes as Allison watches the families at daycare and as she destroys her mother's childhood doll and father's baseball and glove. It is finally the "adoption" of a stray cat, whose appearances frame the story, that helps Allison understand and appreciate her family. While Say's watercolors are powerful?the skill with which he captures determination and longing in the muscles surrounding Allison's mouth, for example?and her anger is a believable reaction, the conclusion is abrupt and somewhat contrived. One can't help wondering, too, why Allison don't already know about her past if she is surrounded by cultural reminders and why her parents don't respond to her pain with immediate physical and verbal warmth and comfort. The compelling artwork will surely attract attention.. However, for first choices that combine honesty with reassurance, try Karen Katz's Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale (Holt, 1997) or Fred Rogers's Lets Talk About It: Adoption (Putnam, 1995).?Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg,
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Say's trademark nuanced and limpid watercolors convey and complete the emotional resonance of this adoption story. When Allison's grandmother sends her a kimono and Allison tries it on, she sees that she resembles her doll, Mei Mei, more than she resembles her parents. Allison is terrified and unsatisfied by her parents' explanation (in a conversation that sounds as if the subject has never been broached) that her birth parents couldn't keep her, and that they brought her home (with Mei Mei) from another country. She withdraws from her playmates and her family, and then lashes out by destroying her mother and father's cherished possessions from childhood. A stray cat who has been hanging around their house provides Allison with another--albeit unstated--view of adoption and she cheers up enough to rejoin her family. Say masterfully captures Allison's expressions: She is surprised, wounded, sullen, hurt and hurtful, and finally reassured. He addresses the dark side of an adoptive child's feelings carefully, and while the resolution is a bit convenient (and may require interpretation for younger children), it still carries truth. (Picture book. 4-8) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 430L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039585895X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395858950
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 0.1 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book -- published in 1972 -- in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is the story of a young Asian child who becomes angry and alienated from her Caucasian parents when she recognizes that she has been adopted. Her parents are hurt but unable to help. The situation is resolved when the child takes in an adult stray cat. The child's dawning affection for the cat and her desire to keep it, help her understand the true meaning of family. - Others have objected to this story. However, I liked it. It was simple enough for my daughter to understand and to assimilate. I felt that the cat was not meant to be compared to a child, but instead to convey the understanding that love is unique and that families can be brought together in many ways. The child's 'speaking for the cat' reflects her own, new found, desire to remain part of the family. Her parent's finding ways to rectify damage inflicted on prize possessions from their own childhood reflects their quiet acceptance of their daughter's feelings. The pictures, especially the body language depicted, are wonderful. Not everything can be easily fixed. Not all parents know the best way to help with a sorrow. I feel that this story presents dissillusionment, anger, creativity, conflict, love and a gamut of other emotions pretty well. Perhaps that's why its other reviewers responded with so much feeling. One comment made by another reviewer criticizes the fact that a seemingly Chinese child has a Japanese doll. However, it is my interpretation that none of the subtext represents ignorance on the part of the author, but is rather intended to convey the painful mistakes and complexities of learning to understand and respect one another.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Allen Say has captured the spirit of a child through his words and illustrations. One only needs to look into the eyes of Allison in order to see and hear her questions of who she is and where she belongs. This gently woven story of families and adoption will be treasured by many.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover
We've read this book many times because my three year old daughter, who left China one year ago, is fascinated by Allison and her doll, Mei Mei, and because we're both drawn to Allen Say's illustrations, which so perfectly capture Allison's emotions. I wondered why Allison's parents had shared so little not only of her country of origin, which is never mentioned, but also about Allison's adoption in particular and adoption in general. Perhaps the real message of this book is to adults who think children can "wait until they're older" to hear their personal stories of adoption.
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Format: Paperback
My eight-year-old daughter and I are big fans of Allen Say's works and have been reading as many of his books, checked out from our local public library. When I saw "Allison" on the shelves, I thought it might be an interesting read, especially considering my daughter has a close friend who is an adopted child from China. Unfortunately, though the story is beautifully-illustrated, I felt the content could have been presented in a different way to suit the target age group of 4-8.

The Allison featured in this story is a young child who is attached to a beautiful doll named Mei Mei that she has had since she was a baby. But when she discovers she was adopted (she is Chinese and her adoptive parents are Caucasian), she acts completely out of character. She vents her anger on her adoptive parents, destroying some of their precious childhood possessions but then does an about turn with the appearance of a stray cat. Though I feel the author meant well, some of the narrative threads just don't mesh well. For example, Mei Mei the doll is supposed to be Chinese (I'm assuming this because the name generally means little sister in Chinese) but is dressed in kimono, the traditional Japanese dress. The way Allison reacts against her adoptive parents seems out of place in a child that young. I'd think it more suited to a teenager. When the family eventually reunites, it appears abrupt and very artificial. These flaws made the story appear less than credible, although the issues presented are very real, and could have been fixed with some critical editing.

I gave the book three stars because I loved the illustrations but I think there are books out there that do a better job of addressing this sensitive issue.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Happy Mama on March 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read this to my 8 year old daughter who was adopted from Cambodia. What a terrible message about adoption this book sends! Yikes! Of course all internationally adopted children may have feelings such as described in the book...but I know a lot of adoptive families, and no one has even come close to this kind of reaction from the child....especially at Allison's young age. At her age, her parents are her world, no matter the fact that they don't look like each other. These issues arise later, and not in the manner described. It is like the author is working out some personal issue through this story. Sooooooooooo many other good books out there. I wish that I could remove this one from my child's school library.
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