As a former foster care case manager, this story really resonated with me. It’s about a child in foster care and the author is a Clinical Psychologist, which shows. It’s written with such insight, empathy, and heart. The illustrations are also lovely.
The story begins with little Ellie, a preschool-aged child who is disappointed her mother didn’t show up for a parent visit. The story tells us the range of emotions Ellie has experienced when this happened in the past. “But today, Ellie was quiet, stuck in a cloud of sadness and anger.” Miss K, who is probably Ellie’s foster mother but could be a social worker, does everything she can to support Ellie and cheer her up, but nothing seems to work. Then she tells Ellie they’re going to the beach because Miss K needs a yelling partner. This intrigues Ellie, who agrees to go with Miss K and help her yell into the waves. Then Ellie’s Uncle Finn shows up to yell with them. (This is Ellie’s mother’s brother, whom Miss K called to invite before they left.) I really love this aspect of the story, because it takes a really special and insightful foster parent to understand the importance of a foster child’s family connections, and to support and encourage those. Uncle Fin is able to get Ellie talking about her feelings, and he explains to Ellie that her mom is like the ocean waves. “We all have our wavy days, our highs and lows, but your Mama’s waves go higher and lower than most, and sometimes they carry her away from the people she loves.” This is such a beautiful, child-friendly, concrete, and compassionate way to explain what is happening to parent who is struggling with mental-health issues or addiction. Uncle Finn and Ellie then share “Mama stories,” and the book gently acknowledges that there are both good and bad memories mixed in. There’s love and also sadness and fear. Miss K affirms the happy memories and love Ellie has for her Mama, and reassures Ellie that she and Uncle Fin are there to listen and support her, and her Mama, when the waves get high.
Note: I was gifted a free PDF copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.