Summary: Emily Out of Focus
When Emily’s parents travel to China to adopt her little sister, they learn about Chinese culture and trans-racial/continental adoption. Emily also meets Katherine, a girl her age who was adopted from China and is — unbeknownst to anyone but Emily — looking for her birth mother.
The entire book is a remarkable immersion into Chinese culture for anyone who’s never visited. I loved reading about the new food and city life Emily experiences. It’s also an honest exploration of the behind-the-scenes of adoption from China, from the perspective of adoptive parents. I learned a great deal about why there’s a spike in Chinese adoptions as well as what the process is like. Emily Out of Focus is in that sense a reminder of what’s so wonderful about children’s books — a variety of subjects tackled as compassionately as possible.
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Still, the book is utterly realistic in the way the parents handle Emily and Katherine’s adventures and the overall ending of the story. Also, in my opinion, Author Franklin does a wonderful job of showing respect for Chinese culture, while depicting the experience through a child’s eyes. Other little details I liked about the story:
- Emily’s love for photography
- The emphasis on what it means to be a good friend
- Focus on adjusting to having a younger sibling after being an only child for a long time
- Overall sense of adventure
- Based on the author’s experience of adopting from China
The Bad: Emily Out of Focus
My only real complaint is that I found this book more educative than enjoyable. I see the need for books like this, but I also believe books can teach without making the reader feel like they’re taking a course on the subject matter. For example, I was completely lost in Alicia William’s Genesis Begins Again, despite it being a serious look at colorism.
Although I didn’t always enjoy the storytelling in Emily Out of Focus, I would certainly recommend this middle-grade novel. Readers interested in trans-racial/continental adoption (from China, specifically) will find this book enlightening. Emily Out of Focus will also appeal to lovers of books about photography, unlikely friendships, and adventures in a foreign country.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of Emily Out of Focus from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Buy This Book
- Rules of the Ruff by Heidi Lang
- Wonderland by Barbara O’ Connor
- Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
Have you read this book or anything by Miriam Spitzer Franklin? What did you think? What are your favorite books about adoption? I made a list of mine here. I’d love to know your picks!
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