Book List: Children’s Books About Transracial Adoption

Because our books deal with many different kinds of families and all different types of diversity, we regularly get asked for books that feature transracial adoption. Because we don’t live in a color-blind world, transracial adoption (adopting a child of a different race or ethnic group) is a complicated act, and presents unique challenges for both the adoptive family and the adoptee.

Below we’ve compiled a list of children’s, middle grade, and young adult books that feature transracial adoption in some way. Please note that this list should be taken as list of resources for further investigation and not as a list of recommendations. Before using a book yourself, we encourage you to evaluate it (we recommend Dr. Sarah Park’s excellent post, Adoption and Children’s Literature, as a guide).

Pinterest: Books About Transracial Adoption

Picture Books

Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami, ill. by Jamel Akib: A young boy prepares for the arrival of his new little sister, Asha, from India.

Journey Home by Lawrence McKay, Jr., ill. by Dom Lee and Keunhee Lee: Mai travels to Vietnam with her mother, who was adopted, in search of her mother’s biological family.

Horace by Holly Keller: This allegorical book about adoption focuses on a spotted cat adopted by two striped tigers, focusing on the idea that love and family transcend looks.

 A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza: A book for the very young set about a little bird who is ultimately adopted by a bear.

We Wanted You by Liz Rosenberg, illus. by Peter Catalanotto: This story works backwards through the years, telling one family’s adoption story.

Mommy Far, Mommy Near: An Adoption Story by Carol Antoinette Peacock, illus. by Shawn Costello Brownell: Elizabeth, who was born in China, describes the family who has adopted her and tries to sort out her feelings for her unknown mother.

Three Names of Me by Mary Cummings, Illus. by Lin Wang: Ada reflects on her three names, her American family, and her native Chinese culture.

Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz: A book for very young readers about one adoptive family’s beginnings.

Families Are Different by Nina Pelligrini: Nico, who was adopted from Korea, struggles with her identity sometimes until she begins to realize that all families are different.

In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco: Marmee and Meema live with their children in a house full of love, but some other families think they are “different.”

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis, illus. by Jane Dyer: The story of a woman who travels to China to adopt a baby girl, based on the author’s own experiences.

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin: This fairy tale is based on the ancient Chinese belief that when a child is born, an invisible red thread connects that child’s soul to all the people who will play a part in his or her life.

Allison by Allen Say: This highly regarded picture book focuses on a preschool girl who learns she is adopted and struggles to come to terms with why she was given up and what this means for her family.

The Best Single Mom in the World by Mary Zisk: This book for very young children (4-8) tells the story of an adoptive single mom, from her daughter’s perspective.

Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles by Darlene Friedman: Cassidy-Li, adopted from China, finds a way to include her birthparents in her poster when she is chosen as Star of the Week.

Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark, illus. by Patrice Barton: This poetic bedtime story chronicles a baby’s journey from her birth parents in China to her adoptive parents on the other side of the world.

Moonday by Adam Rex: This picture book does not deal with adoption directly but features a multiracial family in the illustrations.

Middle Grade

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan: When adoptee Willow’s parents are both killed in a car accident, Willow must find a new place for herself and a new family.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu: A story about friendship centered around 10-year-old Hazel, who was adopted from India by white parents.

Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent: When 8th grader Joseph is assigned a school project to write about his ancestors, he struggles with his identity as a Korean adoptee in an Italian family.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli: This story about an orphaned white boy taken in by a black family in a racially divided town deals with race, homelessness, and belonging.

Young Adult

North of Beautiful by Justine Chen Headley: When Terra meets Jacob, a quirky goth boy, both their lives change forever. The two set out on a trip to China to discover Jacob’s roots at the orphanage he was adopted from.

The Way We Fall (Fallen World series) by Megan Crewe: In this dystopian YA, an outbreak of a virus threatens the lives of everyone on a small island in Canada. The main character’s best friend Leo is an adoptee from Korea in a predominantly white, closed-minded community.

When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright: A coming-of-age story about Lahni, the only black student at her private prep school and the adopted child of two loving, but white, parents who are on the road to divorce.

First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover by Mitali Perkins: Adopted from Pakistan, Sameera struggles to fit into America’s idea of the “perfect” family when her father runs for president.

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher: A swim team at a school without a pool brings together a group of high school misfits, including T.J., an adopted mixed-race teen growing up in a very white town.

Further Resources

Cynthia Leitich Smith’s excellent list of interracial children’s books

10 Great Books for Kids Who Were Adopted Transracially, from

“The Red Thread Broken”: Critical reviews of children’s books about adoption

Know any books that we missed? Leave ‘em in the comments! You can also see the full book list on our Pinterest page.


  1. Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo!

  2. Hannah
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Greg!

  3. Hannah
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    From twitter: @LeahCypess recommends RED THREAD SISTERS by Carol Antoinette Peacock (MG)

  4. Angel
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Tickle, Tickle, Helen Oxenbury.

  5. Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Last year, I did a critical literature review of children’s adoption books. I know many of the title on this list. A Mother For Choco was one of my favorites growing up, as well as Mommy Near, Mommy Far. I gave these both great reviews. I read Star of the Week for the first time last year and would highly recommend it. There is strong father presence and a honest effort to explain/answer the girls questions. The protagonist expresses a vast array of emotions, true to the real situation. I Love You Like Crazy Cakes is a sweet story, but at second glance there are some questionable phrasings. Sweet Moon Baby and The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale are both books that I think could be very harmful to an adoptee. The focus of these is on the aspect of “fate” – essentially that children were destined to be adopted and removed from their original home and that this choice was the only and absolutely correct way of doing things. Sweet Moon Baby’s birthparents “place her in a basket and set her adrift: “We must trust the moon. Only good things will happen to our daughter.” Helped by a variety of animals as well as a beneficent-looking moon, the baby girl floats down the “winding river” to the arms of her loving adoptive parents.” The Red Thread additionally complicated the adoption story by making the girl a princess and the birthparents King and Queen, trivializing and making a serious topic almost “fantastical” and too fictionalized.

    I have full book reviews of some books here.

  6. Hannah
    Posted October 14, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for sharing your perspective on this! Some books on adoption succeed far better than others and the critiques you point out are important for people to consider not just when evaluating “Sweet Moon Baby” or “The Red Thread” but any book that handles adoption. I’ll add your page to the list of resources.

  7. Posted October 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin features a character adopted from China by a white family.

  8. Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much!

  9. Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Most but not all of these relate to Chinese adoption.

    Picture Books



    RED IS A DRAGON, Roseanne Thong, Grace Lin

    ROUND IS A MOONCAKE, Roseanne Thong, Grace Lin


    A MOTHER FOR CHOCO, Keiko Kassa

    Board Books



    THE FROG IN THE WELL, Irene Tsai and Pattie Caprio

    Also, the Ni Hao, Kai-Lan books and dvds are helpful.

    And for parents:



    THE CONNECTED CHILD, Karyn Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Sunshine

  10. Hannah
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Tiffany! This is a great list!

  11. Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    What a great list! I’m not sure I agree with the redthreadbroken response that we must dismiss fantastic treatments as harmful. I absolutely agree that they can’t be treated as the only adoption narratives, but surely those of us who write from other than dominant cultural perspectives also need to read generously. If the Moses-like (or Karna-like in my own Hindu context) reed-basket narratives stand countered by sufficient others, then do we need to conclude that they are necessarily harmful? In historical and mythic contexts, those threads do exist–do we want to erase them? Must we imply that there should be no fantasy narratives of adoption? That makes me uncomfortable.

    If adoptive children or in fact all children are exposed to a wide range of adoption narratives, I prefer to trust that they will naturally select the ones that resonate for them. At any rate, thank you, Hannah and others at Lee & Low, for this comprehensive list.

  12. Hannah
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for weighing in, Uma! Transracial adoption is such a complicated topic that it’s no surprise that there are so many different ways to approach it. I like the idea of trusting readers (and, in a larger sense, trusting adoptees) to select the narratives that resonate with them.

  13. Lydia Breiseth
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Lee & Low, for this great list! Colorin Colorado has recently updated its adoption booklists as well as its information on language learning and adoption for both younger and older childrens. We’ve also compiled resources that address adoption in school settings, such as ideas for adjusting family-based assignments. Looking forward to more discussion!

  14. Posted November 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I love that you not only have the titles of the books, but also a brief synopsis. That’s really helpful! I would also add to the list “Motherbridge of Love” which poetically weaves the story of love to a child from her birthmother and her (adoptive) mother. The illustrations are of a young Chinese girl, her birthmother, and her Caucasian mother.

    I’ve always felt uneasy about the fantastical way that The Red Thread and Sweet Baby Moon depict adoption, but I appreciate the question you posed Uma: Must we imply that there should be no fantasy narratives of adoption? My gut response is yes, that there shouldn’t be, as it’s such a complex thing, with so many mixed emotions involved. Adoption should not be taken lightly. But…I appreciate being asked to put more thought into this.

    Also Uma, when you said: If adoptive children or in fact all children are exposed to a wide range of adoption narratives, I prefer to trust that they will naturally select the ones that resonate for them. I agree with you in regards to adoptive children. The problem I see with books like The Red Thread is more for children who weren’t adopted, that they would have this fantastical, untrue picture of adoption in their mind. In general, our society as a whole already has an incomplete and imperfect picture of what adoption truly is like, and I don’t think we need to perpetuate any untrue stereotypes or fictionalized accounts.

    I respect and enjoy this dialogue! Thanks for bringing it up Lee & Low!

  15. Posted November 15, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink



    Speaking of fantasy –
    Our daughter, adopted from Korea, loved THE ENCHANTER’S DAUGHTER: “The Enchanter and his beautiful daughter live all alone in a palace at the top of the world. The Enchanter’s daughter has no memory of her past and uses all her wit and bravery to try to remember.” I add this title because the girl – and the family with whom she eventually reunites – look Asian. Some adoptive families might find it objectionable because the girl is lonely living with the enchanter – essentially the adoptive father. But we loved reading it together (and it happens to have been written by a mother for her daughter adopted from China).

  16. Posted November 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Interesting to note how overwhelming the titles are about Asian children adopted into white families. We could use some diversity here!

  17. Posted November 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    ENCHANTER’s DAUGHTER appears to be out of print, but it’s still interesting to consider re. the question of the role of fantasy in adoption stories.

  18. Posted November 15, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I agree! That’s why we love Lee & Low’s Bringing Asha Home! :) We adopted both of our kids from Latin American countries and I wish there was at least one book that depicted the look of our family! (My husband and I are both white.)

  19. Posted November 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Given that Korean and Chinese adoptees make up the majority of transnational adoptees in the US, and that Korean adoption has been going on since 1953, it makes sense that the majority of the books are about Asian adoptees. That’s not to say we don’t need more diverse representation, of course.

    I encourage readers to evaluate the authorship and perspective of all these stories. In my research I found that about half the children’s books about Korean adoption are written by white adoptive parents, and almost none are written by Korean adoptees who have grown up and become adults. Consequently, then, the stories tend to be from the perspective of adoptive parents. Their voices and perspectives are valid, of course, but in light of the fact that their voices are already overrepresented in adoption scholarship, discourse and popular culture, we must ask, “Whose stories are being told? Whose voices are privileged? Whose are silenced? And why?”

    I just attended an Adoption Policy Reform Collaborative conference ( this past weekend in St. Paul, MN. Aside from the (Korean) Gathering conferences that the International Korean Adoptee Association holds every 3 years, this was the first time I’ve attended an adoption conference that was organized by adoptees, with adoptees making up all the panelists. It was refreshing to hear from adoptees who are also adoption professionals, scholars, writers, performers, etc. on adoption policy, research, practice and performance.

    Similarly, I look forward to the day when we can say, “Most of the books about transracial adoption are written by transracial adoptees.” The CCBC keeps statistics on insider/outsider authorship of Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian American stories because insider authorship means something, because it matters. It matters here too.

  20. Posted November 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Some adoptee-authored (and mostly adoptee-edited) readings for teens:

    Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to be? Voices of Adopted Teens (Robert Ballard, ed)
    Seeds from a Silent Tree (Jo Rankin and Tonya Bishoff, eds)
    Voices from Another Place (Susan Soon-Keum Cox, ed)
    After the Morning Calm (Sook Wilkinson and Nancy Fox, eds)

  21. Posted December 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Please see

    “The Chinese Daughter” – an old but astonishing book by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. Amazing treatment of transracial adoption, far ahead of its time.

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