Hugging stuffed animals and wearing their pajamas, a class of kindergarten students at Olympic View Elementary School got a taste of Penny Holland’s newly released picture book, “The Adoption of Boris.”
As a fun addition to pajama day, Holland read the book aloud to Susie Stockfeld Hume’s class and even wore her bathrobe.
The children craned to see the watercolor illustrations by Penny Holland’s mother-in-law, Eleanor Holland.
“How many of you like dinosaurs?” Holland asked the kids. Almost all of them raised their hands. That same love of dinosaurs she saw in her son Chris inspired the subject of the book.
Holland wrote the first draft of “The Adoption of Boris” in 1979. The story of young Chris adopting a toy dinosaur, Boris, is meant to help children understand adoption. She wrote the book for her adopted son Chris, not intending to publish it at the time.
When Chris was young, the only books about adoption that Holland could find were from the 1940s and were painfully old-fashioned.
“They would hardly even say the word adoption in there; they were saccharine sweet so that’s why I wrote the story I wrote for Chris,” Holland said.
“I think adoption is much more open and accepted and known about now than it was when my son was a child,” Holland continued. She said she wants people to accept everybody as they are and not judge them based on circumstances like adoption.
“Adoption is like having any child, a lot of unconditional love, lots of ups and downs, as in all families. I hope they (readers) come away with a warm feeling about it,” Holland said.
When Stockfeld Hume talked with her kindergarten class about adoption, she said they mentioned the adoption of dogs and cats.
“We all bring them into our house and love them,” Holland said about adopted pets. “It’s a good parallel to what adoption really is.”
Eleanor Holland did the paintings for “The Adoption of Boris” as a surprise for Penny Holland in 1979.
“I recall getting this package in the mail,” Holland said, adding that opening it was like Christmas as she found the beautiful paintings. They feature young Chris toting his beloved Boris to the library and the museum and more, and Holland said she can’t imagine the book without those images, so she self-published through Amazon CreateSpace. Most children’s books publishers insist on finding their own illustrator for the text, Holland said.
“I never was able to get it published or get anyone interested so it sat in my closet all these years,” Holland said. She moved on to creating eight computer books in the 1980s, followed by educational books, activity books and parts of textbooks.
Eleanor died in 2003 and Holland brought her paintings to the memorial service.
Among them were the paintings of Chris and Boris.
“The family was just amazed to see these illustrations they’d never seen before, so that was when I decided I needed to make these available to them,” Holland said.
While she thought about framing the paintings, she finally decided to do the book. The story had changed since then so Holland added a few paintings of her own.
Chris died in 1996 at the age of 21. Holland’s husband and sister who helped with the book also passed away since Holland wrote the original book.
“I’m kind of sad none of them are here to see it, but maybe they’re seeing it from somewhere, smiling,” Holland said of the book.
Chris was a natural born artist, as was Eleanor, Holland said. When cleaning out Chris’ apartment after his death, Holland found the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” Intrigued, she took it home and started doing the exercises. She fell in love with art, too, and her paintings can be viewed at pennyholland.com.
“I think she’d (Eleanor) be proud to see this (book),” Holland said.
“The Adoption of Boris” can be purchased from Wind and Tide Bookshop in Oak Harbor, Kingfisher Books and Honey Bear in Coupeville, Moonraker Book Store in Langley, Amazon.com, pennyholland.com and other online booksellers.