The Rainbow Egg book review: Trite, inauthentic, and insulting

  • Title: The Rainbow Egg
  • Author: Linda Hendricks
  • Print length: 24 pages
  • Publisher: Westbow Press
  • Publication date: November 27, 2012
  • Rating:
  • 0 gingersnaps (out of 5 gingersnaps) for content(1)
  • 0.5 gingersnap for craft(2)
  • 1 gingersnap for its handling of Christian themes(3)
  • Comprehensive score: 0.5 gingersnap (strongly not recommended)

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The peripheries:

The Rainbow Egg is only available for review as an ebook, which was a severe miscalculation from the publisher. I tried viewing the book on three devices (Calibre, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle Fire). The book is nearly illegible on the last two and too slow to load on the first. While the page layout may be better on the printed page, the layout of the ebook is disjointed and unappealing to the eye. Even on a large-size Kindle fire, which should have shown off the illustrations to their best advantage, the pictures were tiny and hard to see. At several points, odd placement of text and a small graphic made it seem as if the page had failed to load completely. Any electronic picture book for children should be optimized for tablet and e-reader viewing, and this one missed the mark by a mile.

Also, the Amazon sample only shows the cover illustration and the title page. It does not hint at the readability issues. If I had bought this book as a regular customer, viewing the tiny pictures on the first non-sample page would have made me immediately file for a refund.

The book:

The Rainbow Egg uses simple, childlike illustrations of a chicken named Hope who has a rainbow egg and no nest. She finds an eggless chicken couple living in a coop, and she offers her egg to them before disappearing, presumably never to be heard from again.

The positive:

The story seems to be an attempt to reassure adopted children that they are loved and special. This is an important message that needs reinforcing through many channels.

The not-so-positive:

This book has so many problems that it’s difficult to know where to begin or whether to list them all. In the spirit of fairness, I will list a few constructive suggestions at the end even though that is not typically the function of a book review.

The first problem lies with the marketing of the book. The book blurb advertises The Rainbow Egg as “a fresh look at adoption,” while the text is trite, clunky, and downright insulting to its audience. Fred Rogers, one of the greatest heroes of children’s programming, was famous in his impatience with adults who tried to get by with shoddy work for children’s shows. The Rainbow Egg is neither fresh nor well-crafted, and its trite wording lacks imagination, artistry, and a feel for its audience. With only 24 pages in a children’s picture book, every single sentence must be well-chosen. Each word must convey purpose and build toward the story’s message. As an example, Max Lucado’s inspirational pictures books are of such high quality that many adults read them. Janell Cannon’s classic, Stellaluna, is another example of a picture book that enchants with its lyrical text and stunning illustrations. The Rainbow Egg instead reads as a bedtime story written for the author’s children that should have remained a private family story.

As a mainstream commercial product published and aimed at children, The Rainbow Egg fails on almost every level. The few attempts at artistry–an effort to convey humor at trying to lay an egg or describe a bird’s song–lack both the writing technique and emotional resonance to pull them off.

Some books shine with sincerity, clarity, and authenticity. This book is not one of them, and the author’s biographical note gives a hint why this might be so:

Her struggle with infertility, followed by the adoption of her two children, has fueled her need to tell her story to children and adults as one of compassion and love.

This book reads as an adult’s need to justify her decision to adopt, preceded by a need to be validated after coming to terms with infertility. In essence, this book lacks sincerity because her message and target audience don’t match. While trying to tell a story of “compassion and love” to children in a picture book marketed to children, instead her book tells of a parent seeking validation and affirmation of her journey to become a parent. A memoir of her journey to adopt, or a picture book aimed at other adoptive parents, would have filled this need in a more emotionally honest way.

Also, writing a story in which a baby chicken should be grateful to be adopted contrasts starkly with a parent who publicly lists adoption as her second-best choice. There was no need to list “struggle with infertility” in her biographical note, and this ambivalence shows itself in the flat, uninspired text of her book.

However, the most disturbing part of The Rainbow Egg is its one-dimensional insistence that the baby boy chick is surrounded by a picture-perfect (literally) happy adoption story for which he must always be happy and grateful. While this may have been the attitude in 1950, by 2014 we have moved to more open discussions of the range of feelings children may experience about adoption. Books such as The Rainbow Egg do a great disservice in telling children to suppress their fears and sadness. Other books, including Stellaluna and a few I will mention at the end of this review, acknowledge children’s negative emotions about adoption. The best way to tell children they are loved is to understand and accept what they feel at the time, even if that feeling is not socially appropriate. When seven-year-old children are put on a plane alone and sent back to Russia with a note pinned to their clothes saying, “I no longer wish to parent this child,” it is neither unreasonable nor unusual for an adopted child to fear abandonment. Superficial happy-happy stories like The Rainbow Egg do not reinforce loving bonds; they stifle honest discussion and perpetuate myths that force adopted children to live up to an ideal of perfection.

Conclusion: The Rainbow Egg misjudges its audience, and its weak craftsmanship combined with serious layout issues make it a book to miss. I would advise parents, teachers, and caregivers of adopted children to instead check out classic picture books on adoption such as Allison by Allen Say, Horace by Holly Keller, Let’s Talk About It: Adoption by Fred Rogers, An American Face by Jan Czech, Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, or any of the enormous range of books available. All have problems and may not be suitable for a certain child, but they deal more honestly with a child’s right to experience a range of feelings about being adopted. After all, isn’t that the real story of love?

  1. Content refers to the themes and structure of the book. For fiction, this includes macro elements such as the book’s premise, character arcs, and how well the conflict and resolution fulfill the promise of the book. For non-fiction, this refers to the information that is conveyed.
  2. Craft refers to the level of writing technique, ranging from clarity of text to carefully edited prose.
  3. Christian themes refers to the application of Biblical principles as well as the understanding and application of Christian theology.
    .
    Additional note: The combined score generally is a mathematical average of the three ratings, unless an individual rating is especially low or high.
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3 thoughts on “The Rainbow Egg book review: Trite, inauthentic, and insulting

  1. annapurna1951 says:

    By your review, I get the impression that “Rainbow’s Egg” has laid one—on more than one level. In general, I would be reluctant to read a children’s book about the challenges of adoption. Instead, I would be more likely to consult an authoritative text on the subject matter, if one even exists.

    I had no preparation when I became a parent of a twelve-year-old, Russian-speaking girl from the Ukraine.

    While she faced many difficulties after coming to America, one of the more challenging ones was her realization that her biological father had rejected her, a devastating experience. She first shared her pain by telling me life had no meaning and everything felt unreal—terrible warning signs, really. Her disclosure led to a series of talks between us that lasted three-to-five hours each.

    I can’t help but feel that my presence was insufficient compensation for her pain, something she still deals with today. While I would never send her home under any circumstance, I have resigned myself to this simple truth: I can’t undo the tragedy of her life, but for as long as I live, I will try to listen and love her to the best of my ability.

    Like

    • sarannadewylde says:

      Okay, I’m about to share a lot of personal information. I was only two when I was adopted, but I had severe and untreated attachment disorder. My early years could actually be an easy how to of a recipe for antisocial behavior and sociopathy. I wasn’t held for the first year of my life. I was malnourished and neglected. I was molested when I was 4. As an adult, I was raped. To this day, I have serious control issues and I’ve had to work to be a kind person, and an empathetic person.

      My adoptive parents made plenty of mistakes. My mother is a paranoid schizophrenic and that caused a lot of damage, too. I’ve been through a lot of dark things, some of my own making and some not. I’ve met my biological family and heard so many horror stories from both sides, I’m nothing but happy that I was given up for adoption. Even though there were times in my youth that I told my parents I wished they hadn’t adopted me.

      My point? And I promise I have one. 🙂 I”m a functioning adult. I’m even happy. I have my own children with whom I have a fantastic relationship with. I’ve learned to maintain real, honest, relationships with friends and family. I still have some issues with touch, attachment, with intimacy, but they’re not insurmountable.

      You can’t undo what happened to her, but you can love her. Whatever she’s going through, after the storm cloud passes, she’s still going to have you. Based on my own experiences, that counts for so much.

      There is no way to ever compensate for anyone’s pain, but what makes it stop hurting, what makes it start to heal is tenderness, compassion, love, and therapy. It sounds like you have all the tools you need. I’m sending you good energy.

      Like

      • annapurna1951 says:

        sarannadewylde,

        Thank you for your kind thoughts and generous support. It means a lot to me.

        We share some early experiences. However, I wasn’t put up for adoption. I was sexually molested for the first four years of my life on a regular basis and neglected for years in a dysfunctional, alcoholic family. These experiences led to my developing a dissociative disorder, dysthymia (low-grade depression), and an eating disorder (binging). After thirteen years of psychotherapy and two degrees in psychology, I’ve made a reasonable adaptation, and I’m pleased to say my BMI is now less than twenty after losing fifty pounds.

        I bring up my past to let you know that I have some appreciation of what you’ve experienced. Nevertheless, what you’ve shared brings tears to my eyes. I will say this, though, if you have a great relationship with your children and have taken the time to respond so kindly to my post, I know that you’re a feeling and caring person whose empathy flows naturally.

        I know four women who have been raped. Their stories are difficult, even painful. One in particular became pregnant, worked two jobs to raise her child, and then put her son through engineering school without ever telling him how he was conceived. She never married. Her fortitude and perseverance are a testament to her indomitable spirit.

        I believe, sincerely, you have the same indomitable spirit. You are a very honest and real person who loves and cares deeply. There isn’t anything, I imagine, that you couldn’t overcome.

        Like

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