As you open the cover of children’s books to see what’s inside with your child, you have an opportunity to open doors of conversation to talk about the good and the not-so-good parts of adoption, how some kids feel, and how they may feel. Here you will find a list of a handful of adoption-themed children’s books with reviews put together by Kelly Raudenbush, adoptive mom, attachment therapist, and cofounder of The Sparrow Fund who has been leading teams to one of our partnership orphanages for several years. As you go through the list, know that there is no “perfect” book; you are the best resource for your child, not a book. But, these tools—both the applauded and a bit more critically discussed books— can all be used to start and guide conversations about adoption between your child and you.
Published in 2000, I Love You Like Crazy Cakes has become a Chinese adoption book classic. It's the story of a single mother and a Chinese baby girl as they become a family. Not really applicable for a lot of families (married parents with other kiddos or adoptions from the special needs program, for example) and not great for reinforcing attachment practices (talks about passing the baby around at the airport and "more and more" people coming to visit at first...eek!), but some of you will find it sweet all the same. I like it for a few poignant quotes: "How did this happen? How did someone make this perfect match a world away?" and on their first night together, "I held you tightly, kissed you softly, and cried. The tears were for your Chinese mother, who could not keep you. I wanted her to know that we would always remember her. And I hoped she knew you were safe and happy in the world."
Looking for a book for a waiting mom...or a mom no longer waiting? God Found Us You is a good one. I can identify with that Mama Fox who prayed and prayed, wondered and dreamt, and waited through the seasons for God to find her her child. As Mama Fox tells the story, Little Fox asks her, "Did you ever want to give up?" to which she replies, "Sometimes...But I trusted that God knew you, and knew me, and knew when we'd fit perfectly together." (sigh) Little Fox does ask about his birthmother, and Mama Fox's first response is just right: "She must have had very big reasons to give you up. She must have thought it was best for you." But, that's followed with Mama Fox's belief that she "prayed like crazy" that Little Fox would be safe: "I think she prayed for me as much as I prayed for her." Not a promise I can make my daughter, so I usually change the words a bit here. Beautiful illustrations and beautiful words that remind me of our own story and my journey as a mother. And, I love that cute foxes can apply to domestic or international adoptive families AND that Little Fox is a boy.
Foxes, kangaroos, birds, and now....lizards. Oliver: A Story About Adoption is unique to the other books we have in that it shares about the feelings and thoughts Oliver (a young adoptee) has when he's punished, wondering what it would be like if he lives with his birthparents instead of his adoptive parents. He imagines all the things his birthparents might be doing, what they might be like. In the end, he's comforted knowing that his nonadopted parents also wondered when they were kids what it would be like to live with another family and decides to stay put right where he is. Not one I'm going to start reading to our almost 5 year old now, but one I want to have on hand for when I feel like she's ready for this type of conversation...not sure what readiness looks like yet but trusting I'll know it when it's time. Illustrations are simple sketches that you could even allow your child to color in to customize it if you'd like, allowing you to make the lizards different colors if desired.
My older kids LOVE books they can fill in about themselves...okay, maybe some adults do too. It's fun to have a book about you. For families bringing home older kids, Me and My Family would be helpful. This large, spiral bound book is divided into 3 sections: (1) to introduce yourselves and welcome the child before he or she actually joins your family, (2) when the child is "moving in" and getting to know all of you, and (3) living together for the long haul. You may need to adapt it some if you are doing it together once the child is home, but the beauty of the spiral binding is that you can remove pages easily that you don't want in there. You can view sample pages from the book here courtesy of BAAF.
Ellen Levine's I Hate English! isn't directly about adoption, but is an awesome resource for families adopting a child from China who is old enough to be fully verbal in Chinese and struggle with the transition to English in his or her new family. The book is about a girl from China who moves to New York and finds herself angry that no one knows Chinese. It deals with the anxiety of losing something special as well as the frustration of learning something new.
A book about international adoption of an older girl. Sisters is a cute story about Melissa, the bio older girl, and Kika who has just joined the family through adoption (country isn't named, but parents do travel for a couple weeks to bring her home and she has dark, wavy hair and fair skin). In simple language and cute pictures, Sisters touches on Kika's fears and adjustments as well as Melissa's. In the end, they argue and make up...just as sisters do. This one is getting harder and harder to find as it’s been out of print for a while now. If you’re at all interested, snag a copy now.
Since when does 1994 qualify to be called "the olden days"? Fred Rogers' Let's Talk About It: Adoption has great content, very matter of fact about what a family is, what adoption is, and feelings a child may have about it. The pictures are real photos of children and families that are as early 90s as you can get. Think mom jeans and big hair. But, this one has remained on our shelf since the content is so good, but I am officially requesting that the awesome people at the Fred Rogers Center republish this one with either illustrations or new photos (that someone else can cringe at in another 15-20 years).
A Blessing from Above...literally...when a baby bird falls out of the nest and into the empty pouch of a kangaroo. Cute little story with adorable illustrations. Note that in this book, the mama blue bird keeps a nestful of babies but is okay with her "littlest one" being adopted by a kangaroo since she knows "her nest was not big enough for all her chicks.” That’s hard. But, that alone makes this book a helpful resource because that’s something our children may have to process through at some point, as hard as it is.
Finding a Family for Tommy was written for young kiddos (18 mo-5 years old) in very simple language with lift-up flaps (and a spiral bounding...which I like). Tommy needs a family and each page shows places with families that wouldn't work—the farm, the pond, the zoo, etc. In the end, just when you think Tommy will never find a family, a picture with lots of people with friendly faces is revealed with the text, "Hooray! Here are some families. Not too smelly or soggy or scary. Which one is right for Tommy?" I'm well aware of the lack of good books for foster kids; this is a good one. And, what I like about it too, is that you can read it with children adopted domestically or internationally from birth or as toddlers, etc. just to open up the discussion about what makes a family and how a child new to a family may feel. Another good resource from BAAF.