Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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Mommy Far, Mommy Near – An Adoption Story by Carol A Peacock & Shawn Brownell #TransracialAdoption #BirthMother #DiverseKidsBooks

cover Mommy FAR Mommy NearMommy Far, Mommy Near is a story of adoption told from the perspective of the adoptee—a little girl named Elizabeth who, along with her sister, was adopted from China by a white American family. Illustrated with gently painted images with a dreamy aura, and the story that unfolds is a sort of coming-of-age narrative, as Elizabeth comes to grips with the details and repercussions of her adoption.

Although she has heard the story her whole life – her mother has a book with a silver cover that shows pictures of the process – the book gently reveals her realization that not only are she and her adoptive family of different ethnicities, but that her “mommy far” is an actual person with a family who had given her up for adoption. (more…)

Our Baby From China, An Adoption Story by Nancy D’Antonio #TransracialAdoption #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #WeHaveDiverseBooks

cover for Our Baby from ChinaOur Baby From China, An Adoption Story is exactly that: the step-by-step story of one family’s adoption of a little Chinese girl who they named Ariela Xiangwei. Told from the perspective of the adoptive parents, the book resembles an intimate travel narrative written specifically with their adoptive daughter in mind.

Illustrated not only with photographs from the trip that the parents took in China, almost half of the book is about the famous places the D’Antonio family visits in China. It also includes a slew of more personal family photographs that seem like they would be more at home in a personal collection than in a book for children. (more…)

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

cover for BreadcrumbsIn Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu has penned a lively, wistful tale that gets at so much of the poignancy that is being a 10-year-old. This is a moving story that offers a modern-day account of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” In Ursu’s version, Hazel, a ten-year-old Indian-American girl with white (adoptive) parents is best friends with Jack, the boy next door until Jack mysteriously changes. The adults around them chalk up this change to typical pre-teen turmoil: it’s not unusual for girl–boy friendships to become awkward. But the reader can feel Hazel’s sadness. It’s hard to grow up, it’s hard to change and watch others change. Hazel is caught between wanting to fit in and wanting to keep her special friendship with Jack the way it is. At its heart, this is a story about how we can hold onto our real selves even as we change along with our friends. (more…)

Rebecca’s Journey Home by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman

cover of Revecca's Journey HomeRebecca’s Journey Home tells the story of the author, Brynn Olenberg Sugarman, bringing home her daughter Rachele (“Rebecca” in the story) from Vietnam. Instead of the “Sugarmans”, the family in the story is the “Steins”. While the title centers on “Rebecca”—the Vietnamese adoptee, the story speaks more of the family’s adoption journey. Therefore, young siblings anticipating the addition of an adopted child into their home (or young siblings recently experiencing such an event) can especially identify with this story. (more…)

Perfect Lil Blends by Luke Whitehead

cover for Perfect Lil BlendsPerfect Lil Blends: A Reality Book that Celebrates the Diversity  of Multicultural Children  is like a series of love letters from parents to their children accompanied by their children’s portraits. Compiled by Luke Whitehead, the founder of Mixed Nation, this is a photo essay of children of mixed heritage from almost every racial, cultural, and ethnic background. Yes, most of these children are exceptionally beautiful however, similar to, but more personal than, Kip Fulbeck’s photo essay book Mixed, each photo of a child is accompanied by a description of the child’s life interests and a note of dedication from the parents to the child, making this more than a vanity book of portraits. (more…)

When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright

cover for When a Black Girl SingsIf When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright was a dish served at a fancy restaurant it would be described as “adoption woes over a bed of teenage angst served with a side of parental problems and an empty glass of communication.” Doesn’t sound like a favorite dish you would order time after time, but it does fill a definite need on the menu.

The main character, Lahni, is a 13 year old black girl who was adopted by white, heterosexual parents when she was a baby. Living with white parents in Connecticut, Lahni attends a private school, with only a handful of non-white students. She feels completely out of place, alone and unable to connect with friends. Adding to her troubles, her parents are getting a divorce and her father has a new “friend”. Then her mother suggests they try going to church, where Lahni meets and befriends the choir director and the church’s soloist who are both black. She is coerced by her music teacher, who sees promise in her, into joining a singing competition at her school. Lahni joins her church choir to help her prepare for the competition and in the end finds her voice.

I found at many times in this book I was frustrated with Lahni and her parents mainly because they seemed to be hopeless at communicating honestly with one another and others around them. After a particularly upsetting incident at school where a classmate calls Lahni an “African baby on a television special” her mom says, “Maybe she meant it as a compliment.” Or when Lahni’s dad finds her waiting outside the door listening to her parents scream at one another, he simply takes his suitcase and gets into the taxi. Lahni, following the role models set out for her, never talks with her parents (or anyone) about how it feels to be a black child adopted by a white family or about the troubles she has as the only black girl in her grade. Lahni keeps her best friend at bay, only telling her about her parents impending divorce at the very end and then again shuts her friend down when she asks questions. Lahni’s struggle with communication does not end with her inability to share her thoughts, but it seems she is not able to garner messages others are telling her as well. Her music teacher and choir director clearly express on multiple occasions their admiration for her singing, yet even to the end Lahni refuses to have confidence in her ability. That said, the teenage years are not perfect. Transracial adoption is not always heart-to-heart chats and a warm cup of cocoa. And I am NOT a black, teenage girl being raised by struggling white parents, so perhaps I just don’t get it. And perhaps there is some reader in Lahni’s exact situation who will want to take Lahni into her heart because she is singing the reader’s song.

At one point in the story, Lahni is being stalked by a white boy in school who calls himself Onyx 1. This boy focuses his affection on Lahni purely based on his desire to date a black girl. Later he gets in a knife fight with two black boys and he calls them “two black apes”. When Lahni hears this, she is so confused about how a person can want to date someone who is black, nickname themselves “black” and then use racial slurs. In typical teenage style, although scared of Onyx 1, she chooses to handle it on her own. Lahni never mentions it to her parents or to another adult until the end of the book after she is forced in a deserted parking lot to confront him. I dislike the fact that the author had Lahni deal with this issue on her own. Obviously, in fiction the author managed the confrontation to work out in Lahni’s favor but in real life confronting a stalker is truly dangerous. I want the message to young adult readers to clearly state, “ask for help from an adult if this happens to you.” I did however like that the author kept Onyx 1’s character as undesirable and Lahni told him to get lost. Too many times, plots include the “good girl” falling for a “bad boy” when she discovers his soft side.

This book has a light Christian theme to it, but it is not overwhelming. In the beginning Lahni attends church for the first time and by the end she performs “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and realizes she is not singing but she is in fact praying.

Recommendation: This book is suitable for readers age 13+.

Reviewer: Amanda Setty

Documentary Film –“Off and Running: An American Coming of Age Story” by Avery Klein-Cloud and Nicole Opper

Cover for Off and RunningSpanning two years in the life of high school track star, Avery Klein-Cloud, this is the documentary of her journey to reconnect with her birth mother. New Yorker Avery Klein-Cloud is the African American daughter of two white Jewish mothers and sister to two brothers –one Korean and the other African American and Puerto Rican. The documentary opens with Avery reaching out to her birth mother and in a heart wrenching, emotional journey of attempting to balance living a high performer’s daily life with hoping to fill in the voids of her identity, we watch Avery struggle with both of her families, school, and a new found Black awareness as part of her personal self-knowing. At the risk of spoiling, this film is a testimony to the power that love and raising a child with all possible social, familial, and educational advantages have to make sure that those who lose their way make it back home.


I highly recommend this film for everyone and definitely for transracial families and soon-to-be transracial adoptive parents.


Available on Netflix , Shop PBS, and Amazon.

–Transracial Adopted Child (African American/Jewish)

Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Felicia’s Favorite Story by Leslea Newman

Felicia's Favorite Story by Leslea NewmanThis is a simple story that demonstrates a girl’s self-knowledge and love of her own familial history. It’s Felicia’s bedtime and before she goes to sleep she wants a story but not one from a book—in classic, creative recognition of a young child’s vanity, Newman has Felicia ask her mom to tell her a story instead of reading her a story—the story of her adoption. Felicia and her moms become a family through an at-birth adoption in which New York native Mama Nessa and Puerto Rican native Mama Linda travel to Guatemala to bring Felicia home .
As her Mama Linda tells her the story, Felicia interrupts, often inserting her humor and her own retelling of the story into her mother’s narrative. Felicia isn’t the only one with humor as her mothers join in with humor of their own which includes ponderings of why they didn’t adopt certain animals instead of a child and stories of how they chose Felicia’s name. If you have an expressive child, you and your child will see their quick wit and self-indulgence in the character of Felicia and you and your significant other in the bargaining, nurturing ways of Mama Linda and Mama Nessa. Adriana Romo’s illustrations look like paintings; Romo even frames them in borders that refer to Latin American cultural art, pulling the reader in as admiring observer as well as reader.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 4+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Families Are Different by Nina Pellegrini

cover for Families Are DifferentNico, the protagonist, is the first person narrator who addresses the reader directly with an opening salutation before moving into the story of her adoption and six years of life. The language feels forced as if Nico is putting her life on display and she is the tour guide. The good thing about Nico’s “museum guide” voice is that even when she speaks of her confusion and sad feelings, she speaks with authority and knowledge which makes her trustworthy for the young child who may be trying to work their way through parallel experiences. I think Nico’s authority can be very empowering in the end when she discovers that although she is different from her parents, she is the same as everyone in her class because everyone has a different family composition. A child reading this may be encouraged to look at the families of her or his classmates and friends and see that there are many different family structures amongst them.

Recommendation: Unenthusiastically recommended for the message not the story; age 5+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis

cover I Love you Like Crazy CakesA sincere letter from a Euro-American adoptive mother to her adopted Chinese daughter, this is the first person story of the transcontinental infant/toddler adoption from the mother’s perspective. The language is sensitive and sincere as the mother tells her daughter about their lives before they lived together and their first few days together. Children will enjoy reading about a plane ride, feeling as if they traveled to a mysterious orphanage in China where every baby has a friend in their crib, and a magical connection between mother and child from the first moment they met. My heart warmed at the conscientious, emotional connection the adoptive mother voices, “I held you…and cried. The tears were for your Chinese mother, who could not keep you.” I believe many adoptive parents must feel a connection to the loss birth parents feel or may feel at releasing their child for adoption but this is the first time I’ve seen it on the page in a picture book. For many parents who have trouble expressing that dimension of their feelings to their child, the mother in this book can be their voice. Overall, I am impressed by way the delicate, watercolor illustrations show the adoptive mother’s dedication to integrating China into her daughter’s life. A joy to read.

Recommendation: Recommended; Ages 2+

Book Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda