Wednesday 17 April 2013

To Sing Frogs: A Memoir by John M. Simmons

Published by White Knight Printing & Publishing, LLC

In 2003, John M. Simmons and his wife Amy felt that they were ready to add to their family that already consisted of four boys (3 biological, 1 adopted). The couple really wanted to add a girl and so tentatively they looked into adoption again. With countless hurdles in place that I won't go into here, the family were left with little choice but to seek alternative arrangements, and top of that list was the option of international adoption.

The reader is treated to a no holds barred view of what happens when a family open their hearts and home to bring an endless supply of hope, love, and faith to children in Russian orphanages. This is no fairy-tale that promises a happy ending. It's an honest, down to earth, account that fully engages the reader.

I had no idea what to expect with this book. I knew it was a (true) tale of international adoption but not being familiar with the first book The Marvelous Journey Home I walked into this without expectation. I'm almost hesitant to share my first thoughts because I worry that people may read just those, and then decide to give this book a miss. That would be extremely unfortunate. At the beginning of the book we are introduced to John and Amy as they meet with a social worker to discuss the option of adopting. I was very nearly turned off this book as I read John's description of a social worker and found it to be harsh, unforgiving, and judgmental. His thoughts that were shared came across as arrogant at best, bitter also came to mind.

Anyone who knows me, knows that it will take a lot for me to walk away from reading a book. I'm one of those who has an unceasingly optimistic view on books. Even just two pages away from the end I have faith that something, anything, will salvage this reading experience. Some may consider it obstinate and I wouldn't argue against that either. Still, it didn't take long for me to realize that what I originally took to be a bitter and caustic personality was actually a highly passionate father who felt a great deal of frustration towards a system that seemed determined to keep loving families from offering better (and permanent) lives to orphaned and/or challenged children.

While dealing with the international adoption, this book does take place mostly in Russia, with a brief jaunt in Spain. I greatly enjoyed the view into other cultures and for those who know me, and know of my love for languages, I truly adored the sprinkling of Russian and Spanish throughout the pages. One of the many things I took away from this book is the desire to learn Russian simply because I love the way words like Papashka roll off the tongue.

What I loved even more than that though, is the research done by Amy Simmons prior to the adoption. The care and attention to the orphans needs, right down to preparing 'soft books' that detailed their new family, the family pet, the upcoming journey home and so on. All included in both the English and Russian languages. I'd say to those who are considering international adoption, you could find countless fantastic ideas to smooth the transition for all involved.

To Sing Frogs is an addictive, sometimes challenging, but ultimately rewarding read that I would recommend to anyone. It's an experience that will lift your soul even as you feel your heart being ripped from your chest and tears flowing freely. The passion within these pages ignites something deep inside the reader that I have experienced with no other book. Howard Thurman once said “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - a quote that could have been written with John and Amy Simmons in mind. The world needs more of such people.

You can learn more about the author at:

I'm also happy to let you know that proceeds of To Sing Frogs will benefit the charity Ele Lembra which you can learn more about at

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