When Melissa Greene and her husband, Don Samuel, realized that their nest would soon be emptying, they did something completely crazy: they filled it back up with five more children, through international adoption! Her memoir, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, chronicles the making of this enormous, diverse, and delightful family.

I will admit, I was skeptical going into this book: international adoptions have been fraught with scandal and controversy as of late, and I didn’t want to hear how she “saved” a bunch of brown babies. No Biking was, however, a complete breath of fresh air. Greene’s voice is simple and honest. She has a remarkable gift for cutting through to the core of each issue she addresses, and she is keenly aware of the traps and cliches within adoption stories and manages to avoid all of them. Her dry wit had me rolling at times, and throughout the book it is absolutely clear that she adores each and every one of her children.

As her family grows and the story progresses, I was really impressed with how she encouraged the culture of service and responsibility in her family. One son ends up volunteering long-term with the orphanage her daughter came from in Africa—and ends up bringing home two more brothers for the Samuel household. She encourages all of her children to remember their unique heritage and goes out of her way to provide them with connections to their pasts, including tracking down birth mothers and natal families.

As she closes the book, she writes about how they used to divide the children into categories based on common likes and dislikes: two sucked thumbs, two did not etc. As the family grew, however, they realized quickly that they had no idea if the child they adopted at a toddler age was a finger-sucking baby, so they created new categories: night owls, allergies, early birds, tapeworm havers, Amharic speakers, Hebrew speakers, stylish dressers—the list goes on and on. It is this exact spirit of inclusion that shines through in No Biking—the idea that “we are a family, and you are part of our family, and we will twist and turn and fit you in, and we will belong together.” That, for me, captures the spirit of adoption completely. I look forward to searching out her other books and seeing what these amazing kids bring to the world.

Book Information: No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, written by Melissa Fay Greene. Published by Sarah Crichton Books, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.