The Children's Book Compass

Mother Number Zero

Posted on: August 24, 2011

Mother Number Zero by Marjolyn Hof.  (2011). 179 pages.  Groundwood.  Grades 5 and up.  Novel: Realistic Fiction.

Fay and his older sister, Bing, are adopted.  Their parents are loving and supportive.  The parents have always wanted their children to know as much as possible about their birth parents and how they were adopted.  Unfortunately, there is not much information.  Bing was adopted from China.  She was found outside in the freezing cold.  Fay has been told that his birth mother was from Bosnia, but that she came to the Netherlands to have him.  Fay has always thought, “All children come out of a belly and nobody can remember that.  What’s the difference – one belly or another?”  But then he meets Maud, a new girl, who is curious about his adoption and asks questions about his origins.  Suddenly Fay has questions about his birth mother.  His parents provide a way to find out the details about his birth mother.  But, his search impacts Bing who has no hope of finding her birth mother.  This novel is set in the Netherlands and is a balanced portrayal of issues for adoptive children, their adoptive parents and birth mothers.  The strong characterizations contribute to the thoughtfulness of this novel.  Several other plot lines add interest to the story: Fay’s love of drawing birds at the park; his interactions with friends; his encounters with a homeless man.  Young readers will benefit in discussing this book.


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