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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations, Young Adult Readers

HALF A WORLD AWAY by Cynthia Kadohata

Half a World AwayJaden, now age 12,  was adopted by Penni and Steve from Romania when he was 8 years old.  Left in an orphanage by his birth mother at age 4, moved to four different group homes in Romania before being adopted, Jaden is convinced

He only had one mother and she’d given him away when he was four….His mother, the only person he figured he’d ever loved, had given him up.  He refused to feel love again, ever.

Jaden’s parents have taken him to psychologists and psychiatrists to help him understand and deal with his feelings, to begin to accept that they love him.  He has a history of starting fires and other impulsive–often destructive–behaviors.  Now their family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt another child–a baby.

He figured he knew why they were adopting again:  They weren’t satisfied with him.  Whenever he thought that, he felt tears welling up.  He didn’t know if he was upset for himself, because they weren’t satisfied with him, or for the baby, because if the baby was up for adoption, it meant the mother had abandoned him, and Jaden knew what that was like.

Jaden’s behavior is frustrating and heart-breaking for his parents–and for him.  Like any child, he often doesn’t understand why, exactly, he does or says things.  He wants so desperately to be loved but can’t bring himself to allow it, having felt so hurt for so long.  Half a World Away is a story of love.  It is one boy’s journey to his family, to his ability to see the possibility of giving and receiving love.

Half a World Away is a great springboard for discussion about international adoption of older children, and, simply, about the love of a family and everyone’s need to find that kind of enveloping love in his or her own life.


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