“No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glances at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar—a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years before from a shopping mall in New Jersey—she felt overcome with shock. She recognized the little girl—it was she. How could it possibly be true?
Janie can’t believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, but as she begins to piece things together, nothing makes sense. Something is terribly wrong. Are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson really her parents? And if not, who is Janie Johnson, and what really happened?”
Sometimes, I ask myself, what makes me like a book? I have, long ago, nixed the idea that a beautiful cover would get me to buy a book. Sure, a nice cover still lures me in—but I pay more attention to the back cover: where the text is. And since I started paying for my own books around a decade ago, I’ve been very picky about the books I buy.
So what made me buy The Face on the Milk Carton?
Reading the back cover, I have to admit that I was intrigued about the concept of a missing child photo being recognized by the missing child herself. And then, reading the author’s introduction, I started to get into the story: what do we know about the missing? What happened before and after they were taken? Before or after they went missing? It’s a treasure trove of stories, each one different from the other. And author Caroline B. Cooney has a very interesting story to tell.
I didn’t know The Face on the Milk Carton was the first of four books when I bought it. This means I’m going on another quest for books that’s probably going to take me forever to find. But that’s all right, because I fell in love with the world that Caroline Cooney made in the Janie books.
We get a conflicted main character in Janie Johnson, and while I understood what she was going through, agreeing with her actions was a different matter. My mind knew that her problem, of having two set of parents, one who might have kidnapped her when she was a child, was very tricky. Especially since the parents she did grew up with loved her. Deeply. And she loved them too. Her story wouldn’t be as easy as trading one set of parents with another. If it was, there wouldn’t be a book—much less, four.
But reading through Janie’s story, I found myself remembering childhood days when I thought I was adopted. Back then, I looked nothing like my parents and I acted nothing like anyone in our large family. Growing up, I was an outcast from my own family. I didn’t share anyone else’s interests. The sport I liked to watch was football—not the basketball my male cousins love to play; and my head has always been stuck in storytelling mode. I never showed interest in the family business of electronics, or the male side’s joy in procuring as many girlfriends at one time. I didn’t even have the business-savvies that my sisters had.
As a kid, these things were enough to make me think that I was adopted. As a child, I’ve always wondered what my real parents were like: if they were nicer than the ones I had, or if they were stricter; and I’ve wondered what I would do, had they decided to take me back. Of course, I’ve since accepted that these thoughts were just flights of fancy. I was different because I was brought up different. It had nothing to do with genetics at all.
But it was a memory to go back to while reading The Face on the Milk Carton. That was enough to give me a sense of what the main character, Janie, was going through. How do you turn your back against the people who raised you, and loved you? And the answer is, you don’t.
Still, if you knew that you real parents are alive and worried about you—have been worrying about you for the past twelve years—can you just ignore them, and try to live as if they never existed?
If you had been in Janie’s shoes—what would you do?
I’ll reserve my reaction to the story until after I’ve found and read all the Janie books. But if you’re already looking for reviews and recommendations, here are a few I found online: