Emily Out of Focus by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Emily can’t wait to fly with her parents to China and adopt her baby sister, but that doesn’t stop her from being nervous. What about if she doesn’t like the food? What about if her parents find out she’s sneaking Nana’s camera on the trip? Most importantly, what about if her new sister doesn’t like her? But with her parents focused on the impending adoption, Emily finds herself spending time with Katherine, whose parents are also adopting a second child. However, Katherine has her own mission, and she wants Emily’s help to find her birth mother.

Author Miriam Spitzer Franklin obviously has a closeness to the subject matter— something that’s clarified in an insightful author’s note at the back of the book. Before briefly explaining her own experiences, though, she carefully expresses each step of adoption in China in a fictionalized account of the process. And while lesser authors might make this seem more like a guide with a flimsy throughline, Franklin ends up with a compelling narrative that also happens to offer a unique perspective on one form of international adoption.

What makes this work rests mostly on the strength of Emily. Focused on a budding photojournalism career and having a bit of a rebellious streak, Emily encapsulates the hesitation most would experience with a changing family unit. She feels real as she deals with the dawning realization that a baby sister will indeed change everything. Franklin never paints her as selfish in these feelings. Rather, Emily’s just trying to work through what it means to be a big sister, and it’s incredibly effective.

Yet this book is not just about Emily’s journey, and the addition of Katherine allows for a deeper understanding of how international adoption affects children once their older. Her story of wanting to find her birth mother (and enlisting the help of Emily in an amusing and winding plot) is heartwarming and heartbreaking. Mei Lin, Emily’s new sister, is too young to express what her adoption means to her, but Katherine provides a deeper understanding of how complicated adoption can and will be.

Touching with plenty of fun, Emily Out of Focus is a beautiful story of family.


Title: Emily Out of Focus
Author: Miriam Spitzer Franklin
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: May 07, 2019
Classification: Middle Grade

Franklin’s Website | Publisher’s Page | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through Edelweiss.

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