You don't have to be part of an adoptive family to enjoy these children's books that celebrate adoption. This list of picture books about adoption don't just illustrate how much love goes into the process of adopting a child, but also address the complex and intense emotions surrounding the day a family welcomes a new member. This list is a companion to the list of books about families of all types. While making this list I noticed that in most titles the parents are illustrated as white, even if the adoptees weren't. I would very much like to see more books in which the parents are people of color. (Are you listening, publishers?)
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A Most Unusual Day by Sydra Mallery. Not only is this a wonderfully thoughtful story of a girl anticipating the arrival of a new sibling, but the depiction of a family of color is particularly welcome. Caroline spends the day at school, but nothing really seems to be going quite right. When she meets her parents after school, she sees that they have her new baby sister with them. It is unclear if Caroline is also adopted, making the book more flexible for different family situations. Highly recommended!
The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin. The Chinese have a belief that, "an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all who are destined to be together." That belief forms the basis of Lin's book. A young Chinese girl asks her white parents to tell her a favorite story. The story is that of a king and queen who wish for a child. They seek for answers to their childless condition and a peddler reveals that they are connected to a red thread. The royal couple goes on a long journey, following the thread and discovers at the end, a child who is meant to be theirs.
The Day of Your Arrival by Dolores Brown. This picture book is narrated by the adoptive parents of a young girl. They describe the uncertainty of waiting, the preparations and anticipation of her eventual arrival. They wondered what their new child would be like and the joy of finally getting to know her as an individual. The text is simple and very calming to read, the illustrations are lovely and I love the large size of the book.
How Nivi Got Her Names by Laura Deal. Throughout this story, readers are invited to learn about Inuit naming traditions, adoption and are introduced to some Inuktitut vocabulary. Nivi, an Inuit girl, asks her mother about the story behind her five names. Her mother describes the meaning, history and important people behind Nivi's names. I love the way the story emphasizes the importance of maintaining a connection with the biological ancestry of an adoptee. An author's note provides further information about Inuit adoption practices.
Over the Moon by Karen Katz. Katz wrote this book in her role as an adoptive mother of a child from Central America. Katz describes the anticipation of meeting their child, including the role of the biological mother who grew the baby "like a flower." This book is especially useful for parents who have adopted from overseas as the story follows their journey to a far away place in order to meet their new loved one. Overall, this book has a truly joyful feel, as all of these adoption picture books do!
Wolfie by Ame Dyckman. What I love about this book is that it injects some humor into the adoption process. A bunny family finds a wolf cub on their doorstep and despite the dire warnings of the daughter bunny that the the wolf will "Eat them all up!" mom and dad coo over their new adoptee. I won't give away the twist, of course, but my son found it to be hilarious.
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza is a great book for discussion adoption with your kids. Choco is looking for a mom. Mrs. Bear looks very different from what Choco would expect his mom to look like, but then after meeting Mrs. Bear's other children it becomes clear that differences are a wonderful thing.
In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco. I've mentioned before that you can always count on finding a book to suit your needs if you turn to Polacco's enormous oeuvre. In this story, young black girl narrates her happy familial existence. She has two moms and a multicultural, adopted family. They have loving traditions and a warm, affectionate home life. Unfortunately a neighbor directly confronts the family to tell them she doesn't approve of their family! Use this book to talk to your kids about how others are afraid of what they do not understand (a wise lesson that one of the mothers in the book teaches her child) and challenge your kids to think about how we can overcome prejudice and open people's hearts.
More books about families:
Children's books about all kinds of families
Books with multiracial families
As the sister of two children lost to my mother adoption, one of whom had a very unhappy adoption story, I have grown very, very wary of adoption stories for children that uniformly "celebrate adoption" and center the joyful experience of adopters, who understandably experience only joy. Children of adoption have a very, very wide range of emotions about their own experiences and most books about adoption focus on solely on validating the anticipation and joy their adopters and the message that they are wanted by their adoptive parents.
Adoption books that solely center the experience of adopters can cause huge problems throughout childhood for adoptees who feel like they need to prioritize their status as a "gift" to their parents and prioritize their parents' feelings of joy over than their own valid feelings of loss and grief or concern about their first families.
I recently read a great post at BooksforLittles.com that centered the experience of fostered and adopted children and allowed for a wider range of emotions than do most of these books. Please be sure that children see themselves centered in stories of adoption (as Polacco's does), not just the perspectives of the adopters who are so eager to adopt them.
I would love to see a book that also centers children who have lost siblings to adoption. My missing sisters were a big part of my childhood and my mother's experience with motherhood. Hopefully a publisher might see an opportunity there, too. For every adopted child, there is a family who has lost that child, and that story matters, too.
Thanks for your input, much appreciated!