My husband and I have been talking about how wonderful adoption is since we brought our son home with us from Korea. Now that he is 3, we intentionally talk to him about adoption more often and give him more depth to our own story about how we became a forever family. I finally completed his life book, after agonizing over every word and picture, and presented it to him like it was the holy grail. I must say I am pretty proud of it, but I must also admit that he loves several other adoption stories I’ve gotten for him just as much.
Horace by Holly Keller is a wonderful story that we’ve been reading since he was 2 about a leopard adopted by tigers. Another one that we started reading then is A Mother for Choco, by Keiko Kasza, and it is my all-time favorite. Choco is a little bird who needs a mommy and goes to Mrs. Walrus, Mrs. Penguin, and Mrs. Giraffe to see if one of them could be his mommy. He thinks that because he doesn’t look like them, they can’t be his mommy. He then meets Mrs. Bear, who just happens to do everything he needs a mommy for (hugs, kisses, dancing, etc). You can guess where it goes. The illustrations are the cutest I have ever seen, and I think it’s about the best you can get for a toddler who might be from a different ethnic or cultural background.
Books that we have moved on to recently are The Family Book by Todd Parr, I Wished for You by Marianne Richmond, and Over the Moon by Karen Katz. Before I got these I did a ton of research on Amazon to make sure these books had the right messages and language. What I learned is that there is no book that has the perfect language and story, except for the life book you create for your own child. I would read lots of glowing reviews, then all of a sudden I would see reviews from readers quite offended by something in the story. I used some of these reviews to edit my selection, but soon I realized that I shouldn’t set perfection as the bar. These books are all great in that they celebrate the love and joy of families created by adoption, and that was really what I was after for my son at this stage.
The Family Book, A Mother for Choco, and Horace are also good options for helping toddlers from non-adoptive families understand adoption. I plan to get these for the young children of our relatives and close friends so that Maximus’ inner circle has the same context and understanding of adoption that he does.
I have also started to look for books that will celebrate my son’s Korean heritage. I stumbled across the perfect one, called Bee-Bim Bop, by Linda Sue Park. It’s about a family preparing for a festive meal of bee-bim bop, a traditional Korean dish. It’s got catchy rhyming, cute illustrations of the food, and makes the meal preparation fun and participatory for the toddler from start to finish.
I had some paralysis every time I sat down to work on my son’s life book because I was so afraid I wouldn’t get every single word right. Reading some of these children’s books on adoption really helped because they gave me alternate ways to explain the major concepts – birthmother & father, why they made an adoption plan, who his foster family was, etc. And seeing him just enjoy the books, instead of agonizing over every word like I was, made me realize that at this age, my attitude is more important than the specific language.