Reading Corner: Books for Kids in Foster Care - Murphy's Three Homes
Reading is my very greatest joy in this life (you know, after my husband and kids and all that other important stuff). Before I had children, I would wander around the children’s section of the book store, day dreaming about when I could read the beautiful books I’d find to my own kids one day. Now that those days have come, I know that these kids books are now my primary intake of “literature” and seriously cut into the I-want-to-read-this-in-one-sitting books I would have chosen before. Let’s just say, children’s books aren’t quite as magical as they once seemed.
In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, as they say, I’ll be reviewing some of the books I read with my kids for you here, specifically books relating to adoption and foster care. I decided to start with my very favorite “made for foster kids” book: Murphy's Three Homes!
Murphy’s Three Homes follows a puppy, Murphy, through his transitions between homes and families. The book begins by introducing Murphy, a Tibetan terrier puppy, a “good luck dog,” whose mother was unable to take care of him. After the owners decide it is best to find him a new home, he is moved to a house that is bustling and confusing, where the owners are mad when he makes mistakes and don’t feed or care for him as they should. After a postman sees him and has pity on him, Murphy is removed from this home. Being confused as to why he has to move, he becomes sure it was his fault. When Murphy is brought to a second home, he meets one owner who is happy to have him and another who expects him to behave perfectly and is easily angered when he doesn’t. Murphy feels constant pressure to be better and is always afraid he’s not doing enough. After making one final mistake, his owners give him up. When Murphy arrives at his third and final home, he is convinced that he’s a “bad luck dog” and certain that this home won’t work out either. After making a mess, he runs away, sure that the owners will just send him away anyway. When the owners pursue him and bring him back again, he finds some peace in his new situation and begins to feel at home.
What my littles thought: My 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 year olds loved seeing the pictures of the puppy dog, sat through the story, and immediately asked me to read it again. They laughed about Murphy's accidents and messes and made "ruff" sounds approximately 400 times throughout the book. When (spoiler alert) Murphy feels happy and at home at the end, my daughter smiled and yelled out, "Like our home!"
What my big kids thought: My older kids loved this book. They were engaged throughout the story and have asked to read it a number of times since. My son liked when Murphy peed in the house and made a mess of the trash (*eye roll*), and my daughter loved when the owners sought after him at the end of the book. I paused a few times while reading to them to gauge their comprehension and ask questions about how the story related to them. My four year old made connections about how Murphy must have felt and my seven year old was able to see how the story related to foster care. They were very open to talking about Murphy’s feelings and how they would’ve felt during different parts of the book. While children of all ages would probably enjoy sitting and listening to the book, the message of it is probably geared to 5-10 year olds.
What I thought: "Murphy's Three Homes" is a great tool to introduce or further delve into the experiences and feelings of foster care with your foster child. From his mother not being able to care for him to his first home not looking after him adequately to figuring out life in a new house, the book addresses many different situations familiar to children in foster care. The book also explores the feelings of confusion, guilt, rejection, and acceptance that children in foster care can experience. Because the central character is a puppy rather than a child, the narrative and message can be easily accepted by children, especially those who may be typically resistant to talking about foster care. The sweet story also has a happy "ending" without the promise of forever.
This is the very best book I’ve found to read to children in foster care. I also think it would be a helpful book to read to siblings of foster children or kids who are exposed to foster children in school or other settings. The story is fun and sweet, and the message is accessible. I highly recommend Murphy’s Three Homes!