November 19 – National Adoption Day


About the Holiday

National Adoption Day is a national collective initiative to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent families. Sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Children’s Action Network, National Adoption Day was instituted in 2000, and since then has made the wishes of nearly 58,000 children come true. Last year 4,000 children in foster care found forever families on this day.

The Story I’ll Tell

Written by Nancy Tupper Ling | Illustrated by Jessica Lanan


A mom and her child snuggle in a big comfy chair reading a book together. “Someday,” the mom thinks, “when you ask where you came from, I’ll tell you a story.” She considers telling her child that they came from a faraway land, carried in a hot-air balloon that gently drifted down “like a feather” into the backyard. “‘You’re home now,’ I said. Then I wrapped you in a blanket as red and silky as the balloon’s sails.”


Image copyright Jessica Lanan, text copyright Nancy Tupper-Ling. Courtesy of Lee & Low

Or perhaps she will remember it differently: the blanket was fashioned from the silver cape worn by a mysterious horseman who rode into town with the baby in his saddle bag. Maybe, instead, it was an angel: “Wrapped in her arms, you followed a trail of lanterns around the world until you reached our doorstep. How your eyes sparkled when I first saw you.” But, no. She thinks back over the years and once again hears a lark singing high in the birch tree. “When I climbed to the top,” the mom will say, “you were cradled in the branches. Did you know I’d never let you fall? Your hands fluttered like leaves when the clouds passed by.”


Image copyright Jessica Lanan, text copyright Nancy Tupper-Ling. Courtesy of Lee & Low

The child’s mom might use her own grandmother’s tale of how she, herself, was found in the cabbage patch. But she would alter the setting slightly to a riot of tiger lilies that peppered her baby’s cheeks with pollen-like freckles. Or the child may have arrived in town with the August moon, the illustrious honoree riding on the dragon float as musicians played and lion dancers performed. “Your smile was as wide as the ocean when I cradled you.”


Image copyright Jessica Lanan, text copyright Nancy Tupper-Ling. Courtesy of Lee & Low

Maybe the baby’s parents weren’t at a parade, but walking along the seashore when their child “floated in on a wave. No, not a wave! I’d say there was a dragon queen who kept you by the sea to raise you as her own….I waited inside until the dragon queen fell asleep. Then I tiptoed inside and rescued you from her dark cave.” Even as she imagines all these stories, however, the child’s mother knows they will not be believed, “because it will be hard to fool the brightest child in the world.”

The true story, however, is just as marvelous and magical as any invention. So when the child is old enough to wonder, the mother says, “I will tell you how we gathered you in a silk blanket and flew on wings through the sky. Your eyes sparkled like the ocean below, and your hands fluttered as clouds passed by.”


Image copyright Jessica Lanan, text copyright Nancy Tupper-Ling. Courtesy of Lee & Low

Bringing a child into a family is always an awe-inspiring experience, almost inexplicable in the changes it creates in the heart. Sometimes the true story doesn’t seem to begin to accurately reflect the wonder of it all. Nancy Tupper Ling plumbs the depth of these feelings in The Story I’ll Tell, offering lyrical imaginings drawn from the fairytales, myths, and legends that are part of our global inheritance and enlighten our lives.

As a mother plans what she will someday tell her adopted child, readers learn that each of her various scenarios contain aspects of the actual story. Throughout, Tupper Ling offers assurances of the anticipated and enduring love the parents have for their child. While the ethnicity of the adopted child is not stated, images suggest that the baby was born in China. The book is also written without gender pronouns and illustrated with gender-neutral clothing and the short hair of most babies, making this a universal book.

Jessica Lanan’s gorgeous, ethereal paintings perfectly reflect the emotional power of Tupper Ling’s text. With each page the baby comes to the mother and father anew, highlighting not only the moment that the child became theirs but also the waiting that took place beforehand. Each two-page spread glows with sunlight, lantern light, or starlight and is connected by a swooping ribbon of imagination that carries aspects of the child’s heritage in its wake. Lanan’s vibrant palette of reds, blues, yellows, and greens depicts the joy of both parents and their child. Every page is infused with exquisite beauty and invites readers to linger to appreciate the full impact of this story.

The Story I’ll Tell makes a wonderful gift and is a must for all adoptive parents and their children. It is also an exceptional book to be shared with all children.

Ages 2 – 8

Lee & Low Books, 2015 | ISBN

Discover more books for children and adults by Nancy Tupper Ling on her website!

View a gallery of Jessica Lanan‘s illustration work for children’s and middle grade books

National Adoption Day Activity


I Love My Family! Portrait


Use this printable heart-framed I Love My Family! Page to draw a portrait of your family!

Picture Book Review