We Are Family: 10 Picture Books About Adoption by Wendy Falconer Gassaway
One of my greatest joys as a parent is reading aloud to my children. The way they lean into me as they look at the pictures, the surprise, laughter, or wonder we share as a story unfolds–it’s blissful, which is not something you can always say about parenting. My kids, adopted at 6 and 8 from an Eastern European orphanage, still love to have me read picture books to them. This list contains only stories they really liked, and asked to hear over and over.
My list is heavy on international adoption and light on domestic adoption and foster care because of my family’s makeup, but my kids also like hearing about different types of adoptive families–it reinforces that there isn’t one “right” way to make a family. These would also be great additions to an elementary school library–all kids need to see themselves represented in literature.
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell
The multi-talented Ms. Curtis has written a delightfully goofy story of a child’s birth and placement. The child has obviously heard many times the story about the parents’ dash to the plane, and it honestly covers why the parents were adopting as well as why the birth mother chose to place her child.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
I hesitated a bit to introduce this modern classic to my kids, since Stellaluna is reunited with her original family, something unlikely to happen to my kids until they are adults, if ever. But the open-hearted love the bat’s foster family of birds shows to her, and her obvious ability to love and be loved by two families, convinced me.
When I Met You by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, illustrated by Christine Sykes
This book super awesomely talks about both orphanages and birth mothers. I love the questions and comments the books on this list elicit from my kids–this particular book reinforced that it is okay to talk about all the parts of their lives.
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
We all love this book. Choco is a funny little bird whose search for a mother leads to lots of rejections until she finds a bear who doesn’t care that they don’t “match.” Sometimes reading about non-human characters makes it easier to talk about the challenges they are facing.
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose A. Lewis, illustrated by Jane Dyer.
A sweetly illustrated story of a single mom’s journey to adopt an infant daughter from China. Based on the author’s own experience. I think I liked this one more than my kids did.
There is no such thing as a Todd Parr book that DOESN’T celebrate all types of people and families, but this one specifically focuses on all the different ways children can join a new family. My kids at 9 and 11 still adore the goofy illustrations and unabashed love pouring out of this book.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole
If you have issues with same-sex marriage, this won’t be your cup of tea. Otherwise, this true story about male penguins in the New York Zoo hatching an egg and raising the baby penguin is heartwarming proof that “Love Makes a Family.”
I Don’t Have Your Eyes by Carrie A. Kitze, illustrated by Rob Williams
In this book, all sorts of different parent/child combos are pictured, pointing out physical differences and emotional similarities. My kids love pointing out ways we are the same despite not being related, so they are big fans of this book.
On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
Okay, this isn’t really an adoption book. Still, it’s a birth story, and adopted kids need to understand that they too were born, not just adopted. Plus, Tillman’s illustrations are always beautiful, and her lilting prose always helps my kids ease into sleep, feeling loved.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
This doesn’t focus on adoption so much as on children and families of all types. The illustrations are fun, and my kids enjoy poring over the details.
Wendy Falconer Gassaway was under the impression that 15 years of teaching middle school ELD proved that she was patient enough to adopt two school-aged children. She was wrong, but it was still the right decision. She currently teaches middle school language arts in Forest Grove, OR and reads aloud to her classes and her kids as often as they’ll let her. She blogs about books at http://falconerslibrary.blogspot.com/.