Not Always Happy: The Book!

“I loved this book. [Wagner-Peck]  wants people with Down syndrome not to be isolated…or…outcast.  I think it’s a great story about Down syndrome and inclusion in life and everyone should read it.” AnnaRose Rubright, Director of the Anna Foundation for Inclusive Education, public speaker and Special Olympics athlete


What follows…is a chronicle of honesty, of mistakes, of love and messiness, of laughter, of pee. It’s a journey of panic and course corrections and sweet, surprising successes…it’s also a story of a boy. Thorin is slow, but he is smart. He has trouble speaking, but he communicates brilliantly. He is adorable, but he is a pain in the ass. He is, in other words, a human child, no less and no more than your special darling with the bumper sticker for student of the month. – From Foreword by Lawrence Downes

“Wagner-Peck and her husband, Ward, decided to become parents when the author was in her 40s. The Maine couple realized that adopting from the foster care system might be their quickest route but never planned on falling in love with Thorin, a toddler with Down syndrome. They quickly learned that—despite strong educational and civil rights laws—discrimination and ignorance are still alive and well. Here they relate shocking encounters that might have been commonplace decades ago yet are unacceptable and happening now…while this memoir is often humorous, it doesn’t set out to be. VERDICT: Recommended reading for every parent.” — Library Journal, June, 2017


“When author Wagner-Peck and her husband adopted a son, Thorin, with Down syndrome, their learning curve was steep. Peck recounts their journey in this intimate peek at three individuals who had to overcome many obstacles before becoming, in Peck’s words, a “forever family.” Navigating state bureaucracies and compliance issues was among the challenges they faced. So were awkward, well-meaning neighbors, Thorin’s occasionally overbearing biological sibling, a grandmother with misgivings, and a large and varied cast of medical professionals…to continue reading.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“…I found myself nodding, laughing, and grumbling audibly – each story feeling frustratingly familiar to me, bringing back memories of my experience as a disabled person who received a public education. …Not Always Happy [is] a gem that’s worth the read.” –Emily Ladau,, Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights Blog, Host of The Accessible Stall 

“Not Always Happy…is not about raising a child with Down syndrome. It’s not about raising a child with a disability. It’s not about raising an adopted child. [It’s] about doing whatever it takes to nurture a child and to help that child grow and flourish and thrive.” Harriet Heydemann, writer/blogger, Tell Me This

“A beautiful book full of love and wisdom, and laughter, too. Kari is the friend we all want and the guide we all need in times of uncertainty and challenge. She makes it so obvious: focus on love, and, somehow, things will work out.” –Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics

“With wit, insight, and humor, Wagner-peck has written a book for all parents because it gives us the true power of unconditional love.” Bob Keyes, Arts Reporter at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram

“I don’t have much in common with Kari’s experience yet I remained glued to her story, gulping it down in two sessions. Your own parenting trajectory need not be the same as hers to understand, sympathize, and thoroughly enjoy hers.” Meriah Nichols,

“Her easy conversational writing will keep you turning pages to see what happens next… books about Down syndrome either have made me want to kill myself with their list of all the terrible things about having a baby with Down syndrome  or puke at the blessings of it all. Not Always Happy was something that I could relate to and laugh with, and it helped me see Thorin for who he is, not the extra chromosome he has.” –Lin Rubright, mother of six, advocate and founder of Anna Foundation for Inclusive Education

Not Always Happy is a book you’ll be glad to read thanks to Kari Wagner-Peck’s wry humor, unvarnished observations, and memorable anecdotes about her son… Parents of children with disabilities will relate to this mother’s metamorphosis into an advocate.” –Ellen Seidman,

Not Always Happy is the book that, as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I have always wanted to read. And, it is the book that I want everyone else to read… drawn with humor and without the opportunistic sentimentality so often used in the literary treatment of disabilities.” –Catia Malaquias, founder and director of Starting With Julius, director of Down Syndrome Australia and the Attitude Foundation

“Intimate, entertaining, at times hilarious… it illustrates that parenting a child with disabilities is really  no different than parenting any other child. What is different are the attitudes and obstacles encountered along the way – and that’s the problem we, as a community, still need to solve!” Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer, The Arc