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'Room in my Heart'

Forest Grove stepmother, stepson pen children's book.

NEWS-TIMES/TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Amy Aalto , along with her stepson Jeremiah, penned a children's book from their own experience adjusting to new family dynamics.For children, adjusting to a new family member can be quite challenging — especially when the change is a new stepparent coming into the picture. Sometimes, it can even be difficult for the newcomer.

That’s how Forest Grove resident Amy Aalto felt when she married her husband Paul nearly nine years ago.

Aalto grew up in Oregon and cherished books and writing from a young age. When she became a full-time mom to her stepson Jeremiah, her dream of writing a children’s book became a mission.

“Sometimes, when a new parent comes into a family, issues of loss and abandonment can come into play,” she said. “We were dealing with some tough feelings around heartbreak, confusion — this is something that many blended families deal with.”

Aalto searched far and wide to find a children’s book on the subject that could help Jeremiah adjust to the big changes coming. But to her surprise, nothing turned up.

That’s when she and Jeremiah began to collaborate on a book that could give children in similar situations a voice. With the help of her son, they’ve crafted a genuine perspective and story in the form of “Room in My Heart.”

The new book provides a look at a child’s feelings as they accept a stepparent and adjust to a new family life. The work encourages the acceptance of love from a new parent without feeling guilt or the need to choose between a birth parent and a stepparent.

“When Jeremiah was five, we wrote some drafts,” said Aalto. “I was never really good at drawing, so eventually we ended up hiring an illustrator.”

Now, Jeremiah is 14 years old, and the book was published in back in May. Although it’s been quite a process, Aalto and Jeremiah are excited to get the word out.

“I really think it’s an amazing thing,” said Aalto. “It really touches on how we feel about one another.”

“We’ve definitely grown a lot, I even call her ‘mom’ now,” said Jeremiah. “We’ve been through a lot of things, and over the years we’ve really gotten closer together.”

The book even sparked future plans for the duo to author more books together. “Room in My Heart” could be the first of many works by Aalto and Jeremiah — they plan to tackle more subjects as well as some fantasy stories.

“We really think it’ll hit a chord for the right audiences,” Aalto said.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Oregon, and currently lives in Forest Grove with her family. Both Aalto and Jeremiah have reached out to libraries around Washington County to promote their recent work, and have a couple of in-person appearances coming up.

They’ll be at Jan’s Paperback, 18095 S.W. Tualatin Valley Highway, in Aloha on Oct. 22 and Dec. 3 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to greet people while discussing “Room in My Heart.”

“Being a stepparent, full time non-biological parent, and everything in between is hard work,” said Aalto. “I hope this book helps other parents who love and care for a child every day that’s not theirs biologically, but theirs in every other way.”