Books for Transracially Adopted Kids

childrens books on transracial adoption

WISE Up Powerbook

W.I.S.E. Up! Powerbook (ages 6-16) – Created by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) in 2009, the W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook is designed to help adopted children and children in foster care learn how to confidently handle their story and answer questions from others on their own terms. The book presents realistic situations that adopted and foster kids are likely to encounter, and guides parents and kids through different approaches to answering. Organized around the acrostic W.I.S.E., kids learn that they can Walk away, reply that It’s private, choose to Share something, or Educate others.

My New Mom & Me

My New Mom & Me by Renata Galindo (ages 3-6) – A beautifully illustrated story of a small puppy who is adopted by a cat. This gentle picture book is a calm look at adoption and joining families when all the newness is overwhelming and scary. The adopted child (a golden dog) and mother (an orange cat with brown stripes) are a good segue into how adoptive family members don’t necessarily look alike, especially in transracial adoption.

See No Color

See No Color by Shannon Gibney (ages 12+) – Being a transracial adoptee doesn’t bother sixteen-year-old Alex Kirtridge, at least not in a way she can explain to her white family, but she struggles to find her balance with a foot in two different worlds. She’s teased for “acting” too white and judged for looking black. See No Color, which is as much about baseball and growing up as it is about race and adoption, is based on Gibney’s own experiences as a transracial adoptee. Transracial adoption is never oversimplified, airbrushed, or sentimentalized, but instead, it’s portrayed with bracing honesty as the messy institution it is: rearranging families, blending cultural and biological DNA, loss and joy.

A Mother for Choco

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza (ages 2-6) – Choco wishes he had a mother, but who could she be? He sets off to find her, asking all kinds of animals, but he doesn’t meet anyone who looks just like him. Kasza’s twist on the “Are you my mother?” theme has become one of the most highly recommended stories about adoption for children. This was my very favorites when mine were little. It’s a great way to address adoption and transracial adoption. My kids are grown, but I’ve saved our copy for our grandkids.

The Colors of Us

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz (ages 6-8) – Seven-year old Lena is “the color of cinnamon.” She thinks brown skin is all the same until she takes a walk with her mom and learns that skin comes in many different shades, and they’re all beautiful. Katz wrote The Colors of Us for her daughter, who was adopted from Guatemala. A great book for transracial families of any hue.

Horace by Holly Keller (ages 2-6) – Horace is adopted. He is also spotted, and he is loved and cared for by his new mother and father–who are striped. But, as is frequently the case with adopted children, Horace feels the need to search out his roots. And although he does find a brood that resembles him physically, it is not a family that truly loves him. Another one of my family’s favorites that covers transracial adoption.

Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent (ages 9-13) – When his eighth-grade class is assigned to write about their ancestors’ journey to America, Joseph Calderaro has a problem: he doesn’t actually know anything about his ancestors. Joseph’s family might be Italian-American, but he was adopted from Korea. His parents want him to write about his Italian grandparents coming to America, but Joseph doesn’t feel right claiming that heritage as his own. Lighthearted and funny, Kimchi & Calamari is also willing to tackle complex issues, from anxious adoptive parents to birth-parent searches.

I Don't Have Your Eyes

I Don’t Have Your Eyes by Carrie A. Kitze (ages 2-7) – I don’t have your eyes… but I have your way of looking at things. Race comes from shared biological features; culture comes from shared experiences and values. This book, in a very simple and easy to understand way, is all about the difference between the two: a child may not be the same race as their other family members or friends, but they do have shared culture with them. Their eyes might be a different shape, but they view the world through a similar lens. While others may notice the physical differences, there are so many ways adopted families can celebrate the commonality that makes them truly family. A great book to start a discussion about what really makes a family.

Families Are Different

Families Are Different by Nina Pellegrini (ages 4-8) – Korean adoptee, Nico, begins to notice that she doesn’t look like her parents and is upset when she sees the families of her best friends. Her parents explain to her that all families are different, whether they’re single parent, divorced, or same-sex, but they’re all held together by the same thing: love. This sweet, simply illustrated book, written by the mother of a Korean adoptee, is a good picture book for any transracial adoptive family.

The Little Green Goose

The Little Green Goose by Adele Sansone (ages 4-6) – Mr. Goose wants a baby and when the farm dog digs up a gigantic egg, he builds a nest and hatches a scaly-skinned, spiky-tailed dragon. The other geese tease the dinosaur because he looks different, but over time he learns that family is family, no matter what you look like. A classic picture book that introduces younger children to the idea of single parenthood and transracial adoption.

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah (ages 8-12) – Dara Palmer is a star, and it’s about time the rest of the world knows it too. When she doesn’t get the lead part (or any part, for that matter) in her school play, she is shocked. Dara begins to question if it’s because she doesn’t look the part, since she’s adopted from Cambodia and the show is The Sound of Music, and she starts to wonder just how she fits in with the rest of her world. This often humorous novel explores questions of identity that every transracial adoptee must face growing up.

I Love My Hair!

I Love My Hair! by Natasha Tarpley (ages 3-6) – This classic picture book celebrates the beauty of Black hair. As Keyana and her mother work through her nightly hair-care routine, they discuss all the different ways she can wear her hair and how lucky she is to have some beautiful hair. The water colors are beautiful as is the mother-daughter bond. This isn’t an adoption book, but is a must-have for anyone who has a Black daughter.

All Bears Need Love

All Bears Need Love by Tanya Valentine (ages 2-6) – When Baby Brown Bear arrives at the City Zoo all along, he’s very frightened until Mama Polar Bear scoops him into her arms and promises to be his mother. Over and over, the other animals question Mama Polar Bear’s ability to mother a baby that is different, and over and over, she tells them of course she can love and care of Baby Brown Bear. Family is family, no matter the differences, and all bears need love. A good picture book for talking to kids about transracial adoption.

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman (ages 10-14) – Twelve-year-old Imani, a black girl adopted into a white Jewish family, struggles to negotiate her understanding of identity and place while also untangling the skein of her great-grandma’s legacy. Imani loves her adoptive family, but as a young, black, soon-to-be-woman in a sea of most­ly white faces, she can’t help won­der­ing about her birth family and where they came from. She discovers an old diary in her great-grandmother’s house that tells her story of how, in 1941, she fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone to seek solace in Brooklyn. This historical fiction is a moving coming-of-age story for those who feel out of place and different.

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Image credit: Steve Depolo