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Book Reviews

Book of the Week: Real Sisters Pretend

Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 – 7 years

Synopsis (from Amazon)
This warm, engaging story, which unfolds entirely through the conversation of two adopted sisters, was inspired by the author’s own daughters, whom she overheard talking about how adoption made them “real sisters” even though they have different birth parents and do not look alike.

It’s no secret that we live in an imperfect world.  At times the world is downright cruel and dangerous.  As much as I want to raise my children to believe that every person is good and loving, unfortunately this is not the case.  Reading books that deal with tough and complex issues like adoption, foster and same-sex parenting can be difficult for smaller children to grasp, but as parents and caregivers it’s our job to empower and educate children about these topics and more as they grow.

Based on a conversation the author overheard her two adopted daughters having while at play, this book is about two sisters and their vivid imaginations.  One sister is Black and the other is mixed race and both were adopted at the tender ages of two and three. Their parents are two moms, one Asian and the other is White.


The book starts off with the younger sister Mia asking her older sister Tayja to play pretend with her.  The older sister agrees to play but only if they can be hiking princesses climbing up into the mountains.  As the girls play, they are able to confirm the one thing they don’t have to pretend to be is real sisters. Their adoption made them a forever family despite what others may think or say.

Donning their capes and tiaras, they take a short break while playing to reflect on the day they were both adopted by looking at a family picture.  The girls then go back to pretending they are climbing up the mountain until they reach their final destination – home.  They both return from their mountain climbing adventure safe and sound just in time to greet one of their moms at the door.  The final page shows the girls and their moms hugging and embracing one another.

The kids and I enjoyed reading this book.  Although I don’t think they fully understand the concept of non-traditional families yet, they seemed to enjoy the girls pretending to climb up the mountain.  I like how this book gently introduces the idea of adoption and unique looking families to children with sweet and innocent prose, lovely illustrations and a playful story line.  Knowing that it’s a real story made the book more touching to me.

The beautiful watercolor illustrations create the movement that guides the reader’s eyes all over the page. The paintings are full of bright vibrant colors that are warm and inviting and really help to tell the story.

This story displays themes of: adoption, non-traditional families, trans-racial families, same-sex parenting, diversity and acceptance.  I think this book can can open the door to initiate discussion about adoption and non-traditional families.  I’m not sure what age children usually start comprehending concepts like adoption, but I think this book would be great to initiate discussion with kids ages 5 and up.  I think it’s a cute book for all kids, not just kids from adoptive families.  A very sweet story about how families don’t always have to look alike to have love.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary book directly from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author
Megan Dowd Lambert teaches in the graduate programs in Children’s Literature at Simmons College and at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  She reviews children’s books for Kirkus Reviews and the Horn Book and contributes to Horn Book’s “Books in the Home” column.  She is the author of A Crow of His Own and Reading Picture Books with Children and the mother of six children ranging from infancy to college age.

About the Illustrator
Nicole Tadgell’s illustrations have been featured in the The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books and in numerous exhibitions.  She teaches and demonstrates the art of picture books in workshops, classrooms, libraries, bookstores, and colleges, and her award-winning children’s books include First Peas to the Table, In the Garden with Dr. Carver, Lucky Beans and Fatuma’s New Cloth.

Your turn:  Are your kids part of a forever family?  What are some tips you’d provide to help parents and caregivers start talking about adoption with their kids?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Book of the Week: Real Sisters Pretend

  1. What a sweet story! And lovely that the main characters are from different families but still see each others as sisters. And perfect for the #weneeddiversebooks campaign! Thanks to ‘picture books do monde’ link-up I’ve found your lovely blog!