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).
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.
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.
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.
Cynthia Leitich Smith’s excellent list of interracial children’s books
10 Great Books for Kids Who Were Adopted Transracially, from Adoption.com
“The Red Thread Broken”: Critical reviews of children’s books about adoption
Books to Celebrate and Teach About Adoption from Lee & Low Books
Know any books that we missed? Leave ‘em in the comments! You can also see the full book list on our Pinterest page.