Picture Books for Asian Adoptees

Celebrate the beauty and complexities of adoption with these picture books for Asian adoptees.

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Picture Books for Asian Adoptees

I was adopted from Hunan, China when I was six months old. I grew up in Indiana (in the United States), where less than 2% of the population was Asian. I honestly didn’t think too much about it. About a year ago, I talked with other Asian adoptees from the midwest. We all got along instantly (And a few of us went to Hawaii earlier this month!) and had many shared experiences. About six months ago, I moved to Los Angeles, California. I’ve loved getting to know more about my culture and 

heritage. And for the first time in my life: I’m surrounded by people that look like me.

It sounds cheesy and cliche, I know. Being transracially adopted came with some practical difficulties.

  • Applying makeup: Most makeup tutorials are created for western eyes. I have monolids – I don’t have a traditional western eyelid. I struggled with my eye shape for a while during my teen years.
  • Finding clothes: I am an XXS and a size 5 shoe. Finding ADULT clothes is pretty difficult.
  • Health: From the Asian flush to lactose intolerance, I’ve learned a lot over the years about certain health conditions that are more prominent among Asian populations.

This picture book list is for Asian adoptees. Adoptees aside, I think these books are equally important for non-adopted kids, as they provide insight into a life different from their own. Adoption is a complex issue and I think a lot of modern media oversimplifies or romanticizes adoption (ie The Blind Side).

Adoption, especially transracial adoption, involves loss. I don’t expect a children’s picture book to go into these complex, deep, and heavy topics, but they *are* worth mentioning and talking about. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite books featuring adoptees.

Picture Books about Adoption

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis

Based on Lewis’ own experiences, a woman goes to China to adopt a baby girl. This story celebrates love, sacrifice, and the joys and pains of building a new family. 

Every Year on Your Birthday by Rose Lewis

 A little girl that has been adopted from China spends birthdays, holidays, and other special days with her adoptive mother. Magnifies the richness of a life that shares two cultures, both Chinese and American. 

The Best Family in the World by Susana Lopez

A girl named Carlotta is being adopted tomorrow, and she spends her evening nervously and excitedly anticipating life in her new forever family. 

Shaoey & Dot: Bug Meets Bundle by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman

When Dot, a ladybug, meets an abandoned young girl, a friendship quickly forms. Artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his family have been open about their adoption and have created several books in the Shaoey and Dot series.

Happy Adoption Day by John McCutcheon

This rhyming poem reminds adopted children of the joy surrounding the day they joined their forever family and of just how special they are. 

I Wished for You by Marianne Richmond

A small bear named Barley and his mama snuggle up close and talk about how they were chosen to be put together into a family. In the end Barley understands that the definition of family extends beyond just blood. 

Yes, I’m Adopted! by Sharlie Zinniger

This book celebrates adoption and the way it makes a family. The little boy in the story proudly declares that he is adopted because he knows it means he is special and loved. 

Adoption is Both by Elena S. Hall

I really appreciate this book for its honest look at adoption. There are joyful moments and there is the reality that the child has been, for some reason, unable to remain with the birth family. In an age-appropriate way, this book helps children begin to unravel the mixed emotions they may feel surrounding adoption. 

What Makes a Family by Hannah Bruner

Families created by marriage, through foster care, through adoption, or some other circumstance are are real families! This book celebrates the many ways families come together. 

Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz

This lyrical book recounts one family’s journey to bring their adopted child home. The story is warm and sheds a positive light on the adoption process. 

Picture Books About Being Asian

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

This gorgeously illustrated picture book is for everyone Asian kiddo that has been bullied for their eyes. Joanna Ho perfectly captures how to love and embrace almond-shaped eyes. It reminded me of “Hair Love.”

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Names are important! Young Unhei considers changing her Korean name to a more American name, but learns the importance of names in this sweet story.

Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

This was one of my favorites growing up. Young Ruby is determined to go to university when she grows up. Will her wish come true?

I See the Sun in China by Dedie Smith

A young girl travels from her small rural community to the big city of Shanghai for the first time. The two places are compared and the message of the book is clear: embrace the new and modern world while still respecting and holding to the traditions of old. 

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Little Star can’t seem to get enough of the soft, sweet mooncake her mother bakes. Problem is, her mother has given her strict instructions not to eat the cake just yet. Little Star can’t quite resist just a small bite–surely no one will notice–right?

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

A Chinese-American girl sees the gardens of her neighbors full of bright and colorful flowers. She longs to have a garden just like theirs, but instead her mother plants bumpy, ugly vegetables. Her mother tells her to wait because the “ugly vegetables” are better than flowers, but the girl isn’t sure she believes her. That is, until harvest time comes and those vegetables turn into a delicious soup that smells so good it brings the neighbors over. 

Fortune Cookie Fortunes by Grace Lin

A great way to introduce the history of fortune cookies and their integral part in Chinese culture. Mei Mei discovers that her fortunes, as told by the cookies, are really coming true!

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