I Love You Like Crazy Cakes
Authors: Rose Lewis, Jane Dyer (illustrator)
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes tells the story of a baby in China and a woman in the United States who become connected to each other through the process of international adoption. The book is told in first person through the prospective of the adoptive mother as if she is telling her child about the initial steps she went through to adopt her new daughter. The story ends when the two come back to the United States from China.
The first thing a potential reader would notice about this book are the darling water color illustrations by Jane Dyer. The warm colors and gentle strokes add to the book’s safe and cozy mood. The soft words and flowing sentence structure throughout the pages make it a soothing read.
The book ends with the adoptive mother holding the daughter and crying. She explains that “the tears were for your Chinese mother, who could not keep you. I wanted her to know that we would always remember her.” Ending the book in this way “humanizes” the birthmother and intimates that even though the she cannot physically be with them, her presence in their family will remain. This also allows the adoptive child to know that it is alright to keep both mothers in her heart.
When describing the children in the orphanage Lewis writes, “the girls had nannies to take care of them, but each was missing something – a mother.” This is essential to the authors story as a single woman, but she completely ignores fathers, both biological or adoptive, in this book.
The adoptive mother falsely depicts the adoption process to her daughter. In the story, it takes the mother only months to receive her daughter’s referral picture. Then only “a few weeks later,” she is already on her way to China. This time frame may have been accurate for the earliest adoptions from China, but currently the process can take up to five years. The author also simplifies the adoption process by saying, “I wrote a letter to the officials in China and asked if I could adopt one of the babies. . . I received a letter with a picture . . . and boarded a plane for the very long trip to China.” While in a children’s book it may be unnecessary to include all of the financial transactions, background checks, interviews and other paperwork involved in the adoption process, providing an overly simplistic view of the process is completely inaccurate. This simplification also leaves a major ambiguity in the permanency of adoption. The adoptive mother says, “The people in China said I could adopt you if I promised to take good care of you,” mentioning no other necessities. If this promise is the only requirement for an adoptive parent, this book may leave an adopted child reader unclear whether or not they could be adopted again by someone else who “promised to take good care” of them.
The next obvious ambiguity is when Lewis says, “I was so happy that I cried the moment I took you in my arms. . . you cried, too.” You cried, too – also of happiness? Certainly not! Though the adoption day is one of great excitement for adoptive parents, this is a traumatic day for the adoptee, signifying the end of their life in the only country he/she knows. The author fails to make this distinction between the reasons for these tears.
There are some slightly uncomfortable things said once the authors has taken her daughter back to the hotel. She sat her “down on the bed to get a good look” at the girl. This makes it sound like she’s checking over this purchase she just made, looking for any defects. This idea of commodification is furthered when the author says “[her] rosy cheeks made [her] look like a soft, pink doll.” Having the aforementioned statements comparing the girl to a doll, the line “I put silly hats on you and took your picture” can be read as objectifying the daughter, like playing dress-up with her new “China doll.” By saying, “I kissed your little hands and tiny feet a hundred times” and “I stared at you while you napped,” the author meant for these to be sweet and doting ways of showing her love for her new daughter, but it carries a creepy connotation of further objectifying the little girl.
Once Lewis brings her daughter to the United States, she describes the girl discovering her new room. Lewis says, “[she] smiled as if to say, “I’m home.” Being in a new place, surrounded by new people and smells would hardly feel like home. This is unrealistic because though that place will eventually become her home, it is not yet. By thinking a child would feel immediately at home, an adoptive parent could accidentally ignore some transitional behaviors or other emotions due to the number of changes in such a short time span.
While this book isn’t particularly offensive, it isn’t very substantive either. There are a number of ineffective ideas and only one point that really jumps out as extremely positive. All of the ambiguities or falsely simplified ideas in this book mean that if one were to read this book to their child there would need to be some points of clarification along the way. The beautiful illustrations and the inclusion of the birthmother at the end are the redeeming factors for this book. Overall, the message told is one of love for the child, China, and the birthmother. This book is obviously directed toward a very young audience (Amazon recommends 3 -6 years of age) and could be a springboard into the topic of adoption. Further supplementary works will definitely be required.