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Far Away from the Tigers

A Year in the Classroom with Internationally Adopted Children

Over the past three decades, more than a quarter of a million children have become citizens of the United States through international adoption. Kindergarten teacher Jane Katch recently found herself with three such children in her class: Katya, born in Russia, Jasper, from Cambodia, and Caleb, from Romania. Each child had spent early years in an orphanage, and each had unique educational and emotional needs. How Katch came to recognize and respond to those needs makes up the journey of discovery in this moving and insightful book.

Interspersing vignettes from the classroom and conversations with the children’s parents, Far Away from the Tigers first explores Katch’s misunderstandings and mistakes as she struggles to help the children adjust to school. As Katch learns more about each child’s preadoption past, she gradually realizes that they were deprived of some basic learning experiences and she needs to find ways to fill those gaps. Before Caleb can learn to read or write, he must improve his verbal skills by learning nursery rhymes, stories, and songs. Katya, who came from an overcrowded orphanage, now needs to be the center of attention; before learning how to form real friendships, she first must gain control over more basic functions such as eating and sleeping. And the youngest, Jasper, needs steady encouragement to play with classmates instead of sitting alone practicing his handwriting.

Slowly, through trial and error and by drawing on the deep understanding and intense commitment of the children’s parents, Katch discovers the importance—and joy—of allowing each child time to develop in his or her own way. Beautifully told, wise, and candid, Far Away from the Tigers is a gift for parents, teachers, and anyone who cares for children growing up in a new home.


“A warm and caring book from a gifted teacher who deeply understands what it means to put her heart, soul, and mind into her teaching. In these times of high-stakes testing, Jane Katch’s holistic approach to working with internationally adopted children and their families provides a compelling counterforce for envisioning what education that deeply meets the diverse social, emotional, and intellectual needs of all children can and should be.”

Diane E. Levin, author of So Sexy So Soon and Teaching Young Children in Violent Times

“This is an important, moving, and beautiful book that shows all of us a unique and powerful method to facilitate young children’s self-discovery and growth. Jane Katch writes with a spare, pure poetry as she tells the delightful, hilarious, and at times terribly sad stories of the adopted children in her class, moving us through a range of emotions and understandings. The great artistry of her writing, her self-reflection and humility, and the way she listens deeply to parents who adopt make this a remarkable book—reading it will leave you changed for the better.”

Joshua Sparrow, MD, coauthor of the Brazelton Way books

Far Away from the Tigers is a deeply moving account of the challenges faced by teachers who work with children who have been damaged by the biological and social adversities—neglect, abuse, abandonment—commonly experienced by internationally adopted children. Katch explores those challenges through the stories of three kindergarten-age children and their parents, whose hopes, worries, frustrations, and joys she also reveals. To be sure, this is not a story with a happy-ever-after ending, but it is a story of hope and acceptance: hope that these ‘at risk’ children can make significant progress with supportive and loving parents, and acceptance of these children for who they are, not who their parents and teachers want them to be.”--David M. Brodzinsky, coauthor of Being Adopted and The Psychology of Adoption

David M. Bodzinsky

Table of Contents



Part 1: The Lucky Ones

1              Happily Ever After

2              A Long Road

3              All Alone

4              Gray Days in Russia

5              Jasper’s First Stories

6              Lucky Boy, Lucky Boy

Part 2: Stories, Rules, and Land Mines

7              The Mama Business

8              Gravity

9              The Story of Robot Dog

10           The Birthday Rule

Conversations: Flexibility

11           Teaching Him Stuff

12           Land Mines

Conversations: Bringing Adoption into the Classroom

13           Far Away from the Tigers

14           One Telephone Overboard

15           One Baby Penguin

16           Exploded

17           No Animals in the Bank

18           Treasure Hunt

19           Storms and Skunks

20           Drumming

21           Caleb’s Rules

22           The Secret Key

23           A Little Bit Scary

24           Little Peep

25           Fire!

26           Uncle Caleb’s Time Out

27           They Played

28           A New School Year

Epilogue: Two Years Later

Recommended Reading


American Society of Journalists and Authors: ASJA Outstanding Book Award
Honorable Mention

Delta Kappa Gamma Society: Educator's Award
Honorable Mention

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