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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Have you ever traced your family tree? Made it into a work of art? Emma’s teacher wants everyone in the class to create a family tree and trace some of the important things about their family. The only problem is, Emma is adopted. She doesn’t know her natural family. She doesn’t want to be judged by her peers as being different because she was adopted. But, as her adopted mother points out: “We’re all different one way or another.” She still thinks she should make up a fantasy family, like perhaps her natural family came from Mars, or they were royalty. But, as her father points out, she is special because, as he tells her, “You have been our gift.” And, with those words, Emma has solved her dilemma. She knows how to illustrate her family tree.
Molly McCluskey-Shipman’s picture book story, Emma’s Dilemma, is a beautifully-written, charming story about a young girl trying to understand where and how she fits in as an adopted child. The language is simple to assist young readers wanting to learn to read themselves. The colorful illustrations help the plot develop. The story progresses through the introduction of the family tree project, Emma’s misery and discomfort over the idea, to her imaginative solutions until the climax is reached with her father’s kind words, “You have been our gift.” This story brought tears to my eyes as the author’s compassion shines through. We are all different and it’s important to highlight our differences to identify our individual place in the world. Beautifully told.