Foreign adoption, which used to be a rare niche in the world of adoption, has now become more common and a better-known practice. Because not much had been written about the experience prior to the late 1990s, we are in the last ten years seeing a number of books written by parents who have adopted from overseas themselves (marked with an *) and now want to address the topic for their children and for other families.
Many countries are home to children who need families, and adoptions from Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, and Eastern Asia are becoming more prevalent, particularly as celebrities open their homes to children from around the world. China, in particular, has seen a large number of its baby girls leave its own borders, while Korea has also had a relatively high rate of foreign adoptions. This translates into stories readily available about adopting from these countries, so today we shine a spotlight on a few of these.
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, by *Rose A. Lewis, ill. Jane Dyer (2000)
Told as a story and illustrated with Jane Dyer’s stunning watercolours, this is an early and lovely entry in this niche. This story talks a bit of the journey to China and the adoption, but more about the process of bonding between the mother and her new baby. While I’m not a fan of sappy, I think this strikes a nice tender note as a love story to share with a child as she grows.
White Swan Express, by Jean Davies Okimoto and *Elaine M. Aoki, ill. Meilo So (2002)
This colourful book focuses on the actual journey that four families take on the same day to pick up daughters from an orphanage in Guangzhou. There is not a lot of discussion about why they adopted or how they became a family, though.
An Mei’s Strange and Wondrous Journey, by *Stephan Molnar-Fenton, ill. Vivienne Flesher (1998)
Told from the perspective of baby An Mei, the tale gives only vague impressions of her mother leaving, a man taking her to somewhere new, and a new place becoming familiar until she felt safe. It is a bit abstract for using as a discussion tool, but has a soothing rhythm that might make it a nice story ritual for parents and children to share.
Waiting for May, by *Janet Morgan Stoeke (2005)
Told from the perspective of a brother-to-be, this book walks through the process of adoption from China and answers a lot of the questions a child might have about becoming an adoptive sibling, including why it all takes so long. The brother makes the trip to China to pick up his new sister, too, so this journey is also described. This brother is, it must be said, uniquely excited and eager, even when considering the negatives, but I like that the book does talk about the whole experience, including baby May’s distress at leaving her familiar orphanage, so it makes for good preparation. I also liked the illustrations for this – simple, but quite lovely. This may be my favourite of the bunch.
Mommy Far, Mommy Near: An Adoption Story, by *Carol Antoinette Peacock, ill. Shawn Costello Brownell (2000)
Elizabeth and her sister Katherine were both born in China, and one day, Elizabeth discovers that she has two mommies, one in China, and one here. This book recounts many rituals and conversations between mother and adoptive daughter that cover why her birth mother would have given her up, why her “near” mother wanted her, and how they are family because of love, just like their dog is part of their family because they wanted her and love her. It also discusses seeing a Chinese mother and daughter one day and feeling sad because she was reminded of her “far” mommy and how she had been given up. This book has nice illustrations, and strikes a really nice note of understanding while really communicating a feeling of deep love between the mother and daughter.
Jin Woo, by Eve Bunting, ill Chris Soentpiet (2001)
The story of adopting Jin Woo, a baby boy from Korea, is told from the point of view of the only child who will become his older brother. As preparations unfold in the week before Jin Woo’s arrival, the boy has some doubts and mixed emotions which are told in language and symptoms that make sense for a young boy’s description of his own reaction to his parents’ excitement. This baby, rendered in stunning watercolour, arrives on a plane with an escort, who explains his name and some of his traditions. The brother begins to feel better when he helps out with the baby and hears tales from the neighbours of the commotion when he was adopted, but a letter “from Jin Woo” explaining that the attention he needs won’t detract from his parents’ love is the final piece to help him feel okay about the new family member.
Families are Different, by *Nina Pellegrini (1991)
Not specifically about foreign adoption, though it is mentioned that Nico and her sister are from Korea, this book focuses on how a girl’s anxiety over being different from her parents is eased when she realized that families come in all different shapes and sizes and looks, but what they have in common is being held together by love.
Parents may also want to take a look at Nancy Carlson’s My Family is Forever, which is about adoption and families. While it does not address adoption from China or Korea directly, it takes on many of the questions a child might have, reinforces the strength and love of an adoptive family, and features an Asian-looking child in the illustrations, so it makes a nice place to start discussions.
These books and more about adoption – in both fiction and non-fiction – are available at your public library!
Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.