By Mom2One

Two themes seem to occur in most adoption books for children. If the book is from the child’s perspective, adoption is always a happy thing. There’s rarely talk of the difficult subjects brought on by adoption. But mostly the books are from the parents’ perspective, which is another problem, and again with a happy theme. And that’s why I don’t like most of the adoption books for children that are available.

Our Favorites (especially for toddlers and preschoolers)
So far the first two books are the only ones about adoption that my son wants to read over and over. I know some adult adoptees and experts dislike the fact that so many of the adoption-related books feature animal families instead of people. But I think that’s what draws our son to these books because he’s a serious animal lover.

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
A baby bird has lost his mother and can’t find a mother who looks like him. Finally he finds his mother and discovers that mothers don’t have to look like you. (We bought this in a board book version from and it’s one of our son’s favorites.)

Little Miss Spider by David Kirk
A spider is adopted by a beetle. The last page of the book says: “For finding your mother there’s one certain test. You must look for the creature who loves you the best.” (Another of our son’s favorite books.)

Horace by Holly Keller
A leopard is being raised by tiger parents but longs to be in a family that looks like him. But when he finds a leopard family he learns that looking alike isn’t what makes a family.

We See the Moon by Carrie Kitze
This book talks about birthmothers from an adoptee’s prospective, including questioning why the adoptee was placed.

While the first three books on the list above are pretty simple, I do think they plant the seeds about adoption. Choco and Miss Spider are sad about losing their first mothers. Because he looks different, Horace tries to find a family where he “fits” in. These seeds can start conversations or at least let the child know that it’s OK to talk about these subjects. 

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
This is one is about how everyone in the little girl’s world has a different skin color. The main character is presumed to be an adoptee, although it’s not mentioned. This one is a favorite at our house and we refer to it often in conversations about race.

Good for Elementary-aged Kids
Of all the adoption picture books I’ve read, these would be ones I’d place at the top of the list. Again they’re mostly about the happy emotions of adoption, each has some merit.Three Names of Me by Mary Cummings
Ada has three names–the one birth mother whispered to her at birth, the one her Chinese orphanage workers gave her, and her American name. In addition to talking about her names, Ada talks about thinking of her birth parents and learning about her birth culture. Although the subject is specifically about Chinese adoption, this book would be a great place to start a conversation with any internationally adopted elementary-aged child.

My Family Is Forever by Nancy Carlson
The little girl in this story tells how her family was formed by adoption so she doesn’t look like the rest of her family. She also talks about thoughts of her birthparents. I wish the illustrations on this one were less cariaturish and more realistic.

The Coffee Can Kid by Jan Czech
An Asian girl adopted by a Caucasian family loves to hear the story of her birth and adoption while she looks at pictures and momentos stored in a coffee can. In this one the conversation is between the little girl and her adoptive dad, which is a little different. And the father talks about the child’s birthmother.

Others to Mention
Since every family is different, I thought I’d add a list of other adoption books I’ve read. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having one book in your personal library about the adoptive parents’ journey (from their perspective), I would caution about having more than one. It’s better to focus on books that help the adoptee process their journey. After all, adoption is a lifelong experience for an adopted child, with some happy parts and some sad parts, while for parents it was more about joy of the child joining the family.

How I was Adopted by Joanna Cole
A little girl tells the story of her adoption, talks of her birthparents and how she grew in another woman’s uterus. Not specifically international adoption but still well presented. Some experts dislike how the girl is always smiling, feeling that it negates the loss and sadness of adoption.

Over the Moon by Karen Katz
Tells the story from the parents’ perspective, about the joy they feel as they take an airplane to pick up their child.

We Wanted You by Liz Rosenberg
The parents tell the story of adopting their son, who is ethnically different from them. The illustrations show the boy growing from an infant to graduating from high school.

Guji Guji by Chih-Yhan Chen
A crocodile egg lands in a duck’s nest, hatches and is raised as if he’s a duck. Three other crocodiles try to convince Guji Guji to betray his duck family and be like them. But he outsmarts the crocodiles and remains true to who he is. Many families will like Guji Guji’s loyalty to his adoptive family. But one issue I do have with this one is that the crocodiles aren’t made out to be nice people. I want my son to be proud of being Korean and don’t want to him to think badly of Korean people.

4 Responses to “Favorite Books for Children”

  1. November 7, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Hello, I came across your website when my own National Adoption Month-related post suggested yours. I do research on representations of adopted Koreans in children’s literature so I was interested in your favorite books lists. I was wondering if you had considered how the illustrations in My Family is Forever affect the overall delivery and quality of the story?

    • 2 Mom2One
      November 7, 2009 at 2:00 pm

      I’m familiar with your research and have visited your site several times before. I like the message of My Family Is Forever, and like how it explains how her friend looks like his parents but she doesn’t because she’s adopted. I like that it’s from the child’s point of view. I do wish the illustrations were more realistic, less cartoony, and think the message would be impactful if they were more realistic. I can tell you that my son has no interest in the book whatsoever. He’s about to turn 4 so it might be age.

      I know some adult adoptees don’t like that so many adoption books are stories about animals (A Mother for Choco, Little Miss Spider, Horace, etc.), but I can tell you that my little guy will only pay attention to the books with animals as the characters. The three I listed here are his favorites and we read them over and over. I’m sure it’s part age, but if it weren’t for animal books, he wouldn’t sit still for an adoption story.

      Honestly, while I’ve listed my favorites of what’s in print here, I could also point out criticisms of each one. So far I haven’t found what I would consider the perfect adoption book, especially for a boy adopted from Korea. So many books with Asians are about girls, the characters are from China or children who have been in orphange, etc. Or they don’t mention birth parents. I think the market is seriously lacking.

  2. May 22, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Have you seen “Shades of People” by S. Rotner and S. Kelly? It is similar to “The Colors Of Us” but has photos instead of drawings. For some reason I like it so much more (and so do my four and three year olds.) It is not an adoption book per se, but then I never assumed that the kid in “The Colors of Us” was adopted either. I recommend it to every parent regardless of whether they are parenting cross-racially or just want to make sure their kids are getting lots of positive exposure and the freedom to discuss color.

  3. 4 David
    May 6, 2014 at 2:24 am

    Transitions: a gentle approach is a great read for parents adopting from the foster care system or foster parents caring for a child who will be moving than adoptive family. This book outlines the complex relationships that develop during similar scenarios along with practical tips to minimizing further trauma to the child.

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