Book review: Billy Says series by Joanne Alper

Today we have a review by adoptive parent Amy who has read the Billy Says series by Joanne Alper…

This is a set of 6 easy to read, colourful books for children to guide them through some of the issues relating to adoption and fostering. They are written by Joanne Alper, Director of Services at AdoptionPlus.

Aimed at children aged 3-8, I personally think these are better for children age 5-10. But could be used by parents, social workers, therapists or teachers.

20160616_124826Book 1 focuses on helping the main character 5 year old ‘Kirsty’ realise that the shouting in her house is not her fault, and the visitors that come to see her mum are social workers who are trying to help her mum. The books all use the character of Billy – a soft toy who can speak, to help Kirsty verbalise her worries and to help her understand in child friendly language what is going on around her.

Book 2 explains what happens when Kirsty needs to go to foster care, and explains why (that her mum can’t look after her properly). Billy introduces Smudgy the cat who shows empathy after moving away from his own family.

Book 3 talks about the foster carers and acknowledges that Kirsty will have muddles and worries, especially about her brothers who are at different placements. It really focuses on talking about the good, kind things that foster carers do.

Book 4 is called ‘What you think matters’ and it talks about courts and guardians. Billy describes the type of meetings that have to happen and what goes on in them, and also reassures Kirsty that her views are important.

Book 5 is about waiting. Kirsty explains that she’s been making a life story book with her social worker. It also covers a little about the wait for a new family. I do feel that between books 4 and 5 there should be another book about the adoption decision and the feelings that come with that as by the time you get to book 5, it’s clear that adoption is the plan, but it hasn’t been stated anywhere.

Book 6 talks about what it’s like to live as a new family. Again, the bit between foster family and adoptive family has been missed, and we start book 6 with Kirsty having lived with her family for a  little while. Sadly there isn’t anything about packing and moving, introductions, or the early days of settling in.

I find these books brilliant at explaining the bits they cover. They use child friendly language, bright colours, a lovely character in Billy, they are short enough to hold attention. My only disappointment is the bits they miss, which in my mind are just as important.

 Amy received these books free of charge in return for an honest review. You can buy the set here at Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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