If you’re looking for an amazing book about adoption for children and adults alike, look no further than The Not in Here Story by Tracey Zeeck. I had heard about the book on social media, and my interest was piqued. I read it before I read it to my daughter, and I’m not going to sugar coat it, I bawled.
We have read a lot of books about adoption to our daughter and this was the first one that so perfectly captured the experience of adoption for parents, while also explaining adoption to children. This is the story of the Seeks, who are hoping for a baby, but every day, when Mrs. Seek checks her tummy, there is no baby. Through travel and other experiences, the couple learns that their baby isn’t, in fact, in Mrs. Seek’s belly, but in another woman’s. This birth mother wants them to parent her child.
Thanks to the generosity of both Zeeck and Helpusadopt.org, my daughter gave copies of it to her entire preschool class, and I’m going to commit to ensuring that her classes have this book every year after hearing from other parents how much their children like this book and how much they, themselves, have learned.
Tracey Zeeck, the author, shared that The Not in Here Story was the actual story that she shared with her son about how she and her husband became his parents. “Just like the Seeks, we too lived in the “charming little city,” the desert, the mountains…we also visited the jungle, all while trying to find our baby. We started telling him this story before he was old enough to understand, so he’d always know. After a while, he figured out it was about him,” said Zeeck. “A mom I know had a toddler she’d adopted as an infant and had yet to tell him about his adoption. She read him the manuscript (before it was ever published) and said it was the only thing she’d read that she felt helped tell the story in a way that resonated with them. So I knew I was onto something.”
And she was. This is a story that explains adoption in such a way that kids want to learn more about it. It’s sensitive about a subject that needs to be treated cautiously, and of course, it has a clear storyline that children can understand.
“I love how the book simplifies the concept of adoption for those who are new to it,” said Zeeck. “I think people are afraid to say anything because they feel like they could hurt someone’s feelings, so I want them to know that talking about it is okay. This book helps bring up questions that people had never anticipated their children asking!”
Another reason the book is so popular? The amazing illustrations by puppeteer David Bizzaro. My daughter particularly loves how everyone is a different color, which sheds light on transracial adoption and that not all families look the same.
“I didn’t know what I was doing when I started, so I hired an illustrator. I commissioned the art myself. The publisher actually loved the art and went with it, which is really rare. But David is a puppeteer and these little characters were intentionally created to easily become puppets if I ever want to bring it to the screen (which I totally do!),” Tracey said.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough that this is a story that resonates with kids and parents. “I think it does so well with kids and parents-adoptive and adoptive-adjacent because it’s a love story,” said Tracey.
”It has a happy ending. Kids like it because they get the repeating, ‘Nope—not in here,’ line, and they love the illustrations. (Who doesn’t?) Adoptive families/kids/adults love it because it reminds the reader that we all come from ‘a tummy.’ It’s the equalizer. Now, we’re all the same, so we can better approach what our differences are. It demystifies adoption. (It’s a way of making a family. There are a lot of ways. This is one of them.) And just the universal message that we tend to get in our own way a lot of times in life, and so, it’s nice to be reminded to get out of our own way from time to time.”
I also think it helps people who aren’t a part of the adoption triad understand more. There is a section that talks about the Seek family having people ask them constantly about the baby—this is something I remember when I was in the adoption process. People meant well, but being asked constantly about when we thought we would get a child only made the process more difficult. This section was an amazing addition that I hadn’t seen in a book to date.
“The book is for sharing, and every single time I learn about someone new reading it and it touches them, I feel like a huge success all over again,” said Zeeck.
“I don’t know that my adoption experience is ‘expert level’ past our own story, so I don’t really ever talk about adoption,” said Tracey. “I talk about our adoption. My happy story is bookended by a couple of really sad ones that I have chosen to move past. But I am always out talking with my book. I’ll be in NYC this summer at the first of June for a couple of book events (not adoption events, just regular old children’s book events)! I love getting invited to read and share at these events. I am truly honored and feel very blessed to share it with adoption-focused audiences.”
To learn more about The Not in Here Story, check them out on Facebook!