A Thirst For Home: A Story of Water Across the World by Christine Ieronimo
Illustrations by Eric Velasquez
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Children
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Alemitu, whose name means world, lives with her
mother in a poor village in Ethiopia, where she must walk miles for
water as hunger roars in her belly. Even though life is difficult, she
dreams of someday knowing more about the world. When the situation becomes too desperate, Alemitu's mother takes her to an orphanage hoping that her daughter can have a better life. Soon, an American family adopts Alemitu. In America she becomes Eva, where she has two brothers, a sister, a dad, and a new mom. Although in some ways her life is better, she cannot forget her homeland and the mother who gave up so much for her.
I wasn't originally going to post something today. However, this book showed up in book club yesterday and then I found out that today is Birthmother's Day and tomorrow is Mother's Day. Given the material, it felt rather a poignant book to review on such a day. First off I must say how incredibly happy I am to see a book about adoption that didn't feel like one of those didactic "issue" books on the subject. As I read it, I grew even more excited as it is the story of an older child adoption, from a foreign country, who is part of a multiracial family. It is honest and sad and beautiful all in the same breath. The illustrations are perfect, breathing emotion and beauty into each page.
The through-line about water was a great way to pull everything together. As Alemitu's birthmother says, "All over the world, the clouds make the rain and the rain brings us our water. This connects us to everyone and everywhere. Water is life." I was actually a little surprised by the author's note, because the subject of the story seemed to be about adoption, but the author clearly thinks that water and the lack of it is the real story here. Perhaps that is the big picture. Would Alemitu's mother have had to place her in an orphanage had they had access to regular drinking water? Would Amemitu's story have had so much loss and sadness?
This story may seem a bit too melancholy, but it is so important. It is important for families like Eva Alemitu's. It is a gateway for deep discussions about birthmothers, adoption, water, multiracial families, poverty, hunger, and hope. Most important, it is about hope.