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Inspired by her adopted daughters, retired school counselor's book tells of finding a forever home
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SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT | FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED

Inspired by her adopted daughters, retired school counselor's book tells of finding a forever home

From the School Spotlight: Adventures in learning, inside and outside the classroom series
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A lot of meaning is packed into the first book published by a retired Middleton school counselor.

The picture book features a Chinese gingko tree that becomes too large where it is growing in the bedroom of Natalie, who is adopted. So Gingko and Natalie set off on an adventure to find the adopted Chinese tree an earthen home.

Kathy Nieber-Lathrop wrote the book inspired by her two adopted daughters from China and experiences she’s had with them.

Illustrator Steven Andriantsiratahina said he, too, could relate to the tree in the book “Gingko Finds Her Forever Home.”

Andriantsiratahina’s parents are from Madagascar, but he was born in Kenosha when his father was studying for his master’s and doctorate. He moved with his parents and three siblings to Madagascar when he was a child. But he has family friends who now live in Madison, and they said he could stay with them if he moved back to Wisconsin, which he did in 2018.

“Despite not being adopted, I can very well relate to the gingko,” he said. “It is growing too large for her little room. It is time to move out.”

The book is available at Barnes & Noble and the Regal Find in Middleton. It also can be ordered through Pegasus Publishers, Amazon or the author’s website, knieber.com. All proceeds will be donated to the Middleton-Cross Plains School District Education Foundation and the local Kiwanis Club for a Middleton High School scholarship.

“This is a book of love, friendship and celebration,” said Nieber-Lathrop, who was a counselor at the district’s Kromrey Middle School before retiring in 2008. “I love kids ... And I love books. What a perfect combination.”

The book’s story is an adaptation of a time when Nieber-Lathrop and her family were active in the Madison chapter of Families with Children from China. Nieber-Lathrop helped her husband, Richard, organize a camping trip for the families every summer at Devil’s Lake State Park. At the campsite, Natalie, one of the adoptees, planted a sapling, which is now grown like Neiber-Lathrop’s daughters.

Nieber-Lathrop is aware of controversies surrounding adoption. She is also a southwest representative for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which has discussed the concept of white authors writing about people of color, and Nieber-Lathrop has come to terms with it.

She said her daughters, Emily Chingwen Nieber Lathrop, 24, and Maia Jinzhi Nieber Lathrop, 22, are supportive of the book and read Nieber-Lathrop’s writing before it was published.

Maia Lathrop, who bought her mom some earrings shaped like a gingko leaf to celebrate the book, draws portraits of Asian adoptees and shares their stories on her Instagram account, @maia.lathrop.

Nieber-Lathrop said she doesn’t know if her youngest daughter would have survived if she had continued living in an orphanage because she was quite sick and severely malnourished. She weighed 11 pounds at 9½ months and had developmental delays, which required early childhood intervention.

Emily Lathrop was adopted when she was 3½ months old in 1996 when the Hunan Province was experiencing severe floods and families were suffering.

Andriantsiratahina, 25, is studying graphic arts at Madison Area Technical College, where he met Maia Lathrop, who is in the same field.

“Every day when I come back to class, I see her one spot closer. Suddenly I find her right next to me and things kind of happened naturally,” he said.

Andriantsiratahina creates promotional materials for the Yahara Journal, the college’s student-produced fine arts and literary journal. He hopes to have a career in graphic design while illustrating children’s books on the side.

Nieber-Lathrop has published articles about adoption in various publications and created classroom curriculum about family change and celebrating diversity.

She has another picture book in the works called “Jack and the Snackasaurus.” It was written for her son, Jacob, to read to his son, Caleb.

A middle school English teacher before becoming a school counselor, Nieber-Lathrop is writing a six-book novel series, called “MadCity Kids,” for 9- to 12-year-olds, and adoption is a theme for the first three. Maia Lathrop designed the cover for one of the books, “Zowie AKA Zoe.”

Kate Messner, an author of more than 40 books, has organized World Read Aloud Day on Feb. 3 and has matched up authors to schools for online readings. Nieber-Lathrop has volunteered to participate by reading “Gingko Finds Her Forever Home” to students in Long Island, New York. She also hopes to find a librarian in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District who is interested in participating.

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