What Makes a Children’s Book About Adoption Good?

Reading together is a great way to bond with your child, increase vocabulary, and create a life-long love of reading. For adopted children, reading books about adoption is especially important. Seeing other adopted kids in books normalizes adoption for them and is a wonderful starting point for conversations about their own adoption stories. Each month, I review one children’s book about adoption, to help parents choose books that will help create family moments and teachable moments. Here are my criteria for a great adoption book.

1. Great adoption books respect the child. There are many children’s books (particularly older ones) that refer to the adopted child as a “gift” to the adoptive parents, dismiss the child’s feelings, or suggest that the child should feel grateful that his adoptive parents “wanted” him. Language about being a “chosen child” can also be problematic, as kids feel that they must live up to their parents’ expectations to “stay chosen,” or as they grow and conclude that being “chosen” by one set of parents means being “not chosen” by their family of origin. I’m also uncomfortable with books that talk about infertility in a way that makes the adopted child feel that adoption was his parents’ last choice. The best adoption books respect kids as people and create a safe space for them to feel all kinds of feelings about being adopted.

2. Great adoption books respect the birth parents. The best adoption books portray the birth parents as “real” parents, as loving parents, and as parents who made a difficult choice. Books that are disrespectful to birth parents, or that leave them out entirely, are unlikely to end up on my shelf, as are the (fortunately few!) books that make adoptive placement look like an easy choice for birth parents.

3. Great adoption books respect the adoptive parents. Speaking of “real” or “natural” parents, I think we can safely call an end to the use of those words. Great book writers know that there’s nothing about being an adoptive parent that’s not natural or real.

4. Great adoption books respect the child’s country of origin. I love books that portray the child’s country of origin as a place to be proud of. While many adoptive parents like to feel that they have “rescued” the child from his or her country, I don’t believe that is accurate or respectful. Celebrating your child’s culture is a beautiful way to teach her to love all aspects of herself, and books that celebrate diversity get pride of place in my library.

5. Great adoption books are age-appropriate. As most parents know, the way you talk about adoption with your children changes as they grow. A book that goes into too much detail can be confusing to small children, while an overly simplistic view of adoption insults older kids’ intelligence. I try to mention age group in each of my book reviews for this reason.

6. Great adoption books don’t overly romanticize adoption. Adoption is a beautiful thing, but there are books that sugar-coat it far too much. The best adoption books are factual in an age-appropriate way and don’t tell kids how to feel or what to think about their own histories.

Ultimately, you are the one who knows best what adoption books are appropriate for your family. We are fortunate that today there is a wide variety of books to choose from, portraying many different kinds of families, allowing parents to choose the books that fit their families best. I hope that my reviews are helpful to you, and happy reading!


  1. October 31st, 2010 | 1:47 pm

    Great list! I invite you to visit the website of Perspectives Press: The Infertility and Adoption Publisher and check out our books. Let us know if you would like review copies of anything!

    Pat Johnston

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