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The Journey to Max - An Adoption Story

Picture Book; Memoir; (Publish)

Xander narrates the story of the coast-to-coast journey he and his two dads take to complete their family.  Xander wants a sibling who will make the back seat of the car less lonely, make playing with toys more of a team activity, and fill the empty seat at their table to make them feel full. 

Their journey starts in Sacramento, the city where Xander was born, but it is unsuccessful.  They travel to Phoenix, Dallas, Little Rock, Gainesville, and Miami – all starting hopeful, but in the end, they remain a trio.

After one disappointment too many, they accept the fact that the empty chair at their table will remain empty.  It makes them sad.

When hope is packed away, a single, unexpected phone call re-opens a door otherwise thought would remain dark.  A birth mom, who was 7 months pregnant, sees their family profile on the adoption agency website and wants them – she chooses them to be the family for her soon-to-be-born baby.

With only two months to prepare, Xander helps his dads set up the baby’s nursery, shops for baby supplies, and even lets go of some of his best- stuffed animal friends to ensure his new sibling feels special.

The big day arrives and Xander becomes a big brother to Max.

Xander loves helping out with his new brother.  He cautiously accepts the new chore of diaper duty where he soon realizes little babies can make big smells, but Xander is thrilled with his brother’s arrival, “the empty spot in my heart is not empty anymore.”

Xander and Max grow quickly.  Max is soon crawling, walking, and running.  The two, along with the family dog, Shelby, love adventure and sometimes get into trouble.  No matter how long their ‘time-outs’, they end with a hug from Daddy and Papa – they are loved.

Xander points out that Max is ‘super-loved’ – by him and his dads, his Abuela, his extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and Max’s birth mother.

The love of Max’s birth mother is highlighted in a 2-page spread of text messages and photos exchanged between her and his fathers.

Although she is not part of Max’s daily life, her text messages resonate that she keeps him in her heart and is thankful that she chose the perfect family for him.

Xander closes his story by recognizing all the positive things Max brings to his extended family’s lives: they sing louder, they laugh harder and they smile brighter. 

Max is Xander’s best friend.


A family welcomes their newest member in this picture book about adoption from married authors Christopher and Alejandro Garcia-Halenar.

In a tale told from the perspective of their eldest son, Xander, the Garcia-Halenars recount the process of adopting their second child, Max. The text introduces readers to the members of the family and their reasons for wanting another family member as well as the difficult, disheartening process of searching all over the United States to find their new family member. In a surprise twist, a young pregnant woman in their own city of Miami seeks out the authors to be the parents of her son after he’s born: “Just when we were ready to give up,” Xander narrates, “she found us. She chose us!” The love that Max’s family feels for him leaps off the page, in part due to vibrant watercolor illustrations and clever page compositions by illustrator Embeli. In clear, charming language, the authors have Xander describe the excitement that he shares with his parents as well as their joy in watching Max grow into an exuberant little boy. The Garcia-Halenars also emphasize their gratitude and admiration not only for Max’s birth mother, but also for their large extended family. The result is a sincere, approachable, and heartwarming glimpse into the adoption experience.

A sweet, lovingly rendered tale with delightful images.

Reader's Favorite

The Journey to Max: An Adoption Story by Christopher and Alejandro Garcia-Halenar is the story of a couple who have one child and want another. They try for years without success before another child comes their way. The book is written from the standpoint of the first child, Xander, who wants a younger sibling as much as his parents want another child. They’re about ready to give up their quest when an unexpected phone call comes in. That call leads to the adoption of a newborn boy, who the mother has chosen to give up for adoption because she’s not yet ready for a family. From the start, Xander is delighted with his new brother and becomes even more so as the baby grows. Eventually, the newborn is old enough so that the two boys can play—and even get into occasional mischief—together. The parents, of course, are also thrilled with the new addition to their family.

This wonderful book teaches about understanding, perseverance, and happy endings. Although the writer doesn’t explicitly say so, it appears that Xander’s two dads are a gay couple. The book is written for children and through it they can learn about love, tolerance, and the value of every human life. Although again the author doesn’t explicitly say, I had the feeling that the young biological mother could have aborted, but didn’t. Instead, she gave up the baby for adoption to a loving family and stable home. Furthermore, to the joy of all, the biological mother and the family keep in touch, visiting each other twice a year and otherwise communicating through text messages. One text from the biological mother to the dads says it all: “Thank you for the beautiful picture of Max. It means so much to me. I’m so happy to have chosen such great parents for Max.” The illustrations by Lea Embeli are charming and fit the book perfectly. I highly recommend The Journey to Max: An Adoption Story by Christopher and Alejandro Garcia-Halenar to all readers.



Xander and his two dads know that their family is special, beautiful, and wonderful—but they also feel like there’s something missing. Xander has no one to sit with him in the back seat of the car, and no one to play with him and all his toys. They know they need to find Max—but where will they find him? They search from coast to coast for a baby brother to adopt, and just when it seems that Max is nowhere to be found—there he is! Now Xander’s family is complete, and Max is surrounded by love.

From single-parent families to families with LGBTQ+ parents, to only children and families with four or five siblings, families today look very different from the oft-depicted heteronormative couple with 2.5 children. While each family is unique, it can be easy for kids to feel marginalized if they don’t see their own family situation reflected in the books they read and the shows they watch. The Journey to Max is a particularly beautiful story because it both normalizes and celebrates the many ways we craft our families—which is not through blood alone, but through love, care, and sharing. Punctuating the story with moments of humor, the soft watercolor illustrations do a great job of depicting the ups and downs of family life, making this an easy story for readers to relate to.

This is a great read for families of all shapes and sizes!