The Children's Book Compass

Books About Adoption

Posted on: September 26, 2011

Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell.  Illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Viking.  Grades K-4.  Picture Book/Realistic Fiction.

I’m Adopted! By Shelley Rotner & Sheila M. Kelly.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Holiday House.  Grades K-5.  Nonfiction.

Nini by Francois Thisdale.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Tundra Books.  Grades K-4.  Picture Book/ Realistic Fiction.

These three books fill a need for stories about adoption.  They will be especially loved in families who have adopted.  Share them with children in discussions about different kinds of families in your home or classroom.  Also, please note my previous review of a novel about adoption, Mother Number Zero.

Goyangi Means Cat tells the story of a young girl, Soo Min, who is adopted from Korea and the first week in her American home.  McDonnell skillfully captures how overwhelming it must be for a child to experience a new home, parents, places and especially a new language.  Soo Min teaches her new parents some Korean words.  She finds comfort in the family cat that she calls Goyangi.  The child is tearful when the cat disappears.  But when it returns, Soo Min declares, “Goyangi home” her first English word.  The illustrations in this book are evocative of the tone and nuances in the story.  .The illustrators use paper collage with acrylic and oil paints.  “The patterns used in the paper collage were selected to reflect the Eastern and Western worlds of Soo Min…”  The richness of the patterns with Korean characters integrated into them provide a textured and softly colored background for the story.

I’m Adopted! is a joyful celebration of the variety of ways families adopt.  The simple text is accompanied by bright photographs that feature children adopted at different ages and countries as well as the U.S.  The authors focus on questions that children have about adoption.  “Usually adopted children want to know why their birth mothers could not keep them.”  Or, “Adopted children often want to know about the country where they were born.”  The answers are straight forward and show that there are various ways to address the questions.   The photographs are the highlight of the book.  There are several to a page that shows animated, happy children and their families engaged in all kinds of activities.  The book ends with the satisfying statement about how “Most children want to hear the story of how they came to their families . . . They want to hear it again … and again.”

Nini is unusual and memorable in its portrayal of the adoption of the author’s daughter from China.  It starts with the baby in the womb and how she listens to the voice of her mother.  “It spoke of rice paddies and lotus flowers blowing in the evening breeze.”  …“Warm and safe, she listened carefully to all it said.”  The illustration that accompanies this part of the text shows the baby floating in the womb.  Then the story follows the child to an orphanage and finally to the home of her new parents across the ocean.  The story comes full circle ends with “Years have passed.  Some days, the child hears a distant echo.  She thinks of rice paddies, of lotus flowers in the wind, of a little house with a pointed roof.  Sometimes, just before she sleeps, she whispers to the moon that she is happy. . . . And they (the family) thank a distant echo that travels on the night breeze for allowing them to become a family.”  Thisdale uses mixed, multi-textured images that are haunting in their beauty.  Some of the illustrations feature photographs of his daughter woven into the illustration.  Words, child-like drawings and Chinese characters also float through the pictures.  Treasure this story.



1 Response to "Books About Adoption"

Thank you for these wonderful suggestions! I will be ordering them soon. I have several of mine own adoption books in the works. One was published by Adoptive Families in August 2011, titled The Very Best Day. You can find a link to it on my website,

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