Books for Kindergarten to 2nd Grade About Adoption, Race, and Family

allfamilies.jpg All Families Are Special
by Norma Simon

Beginning with an adoptive family, Norma Simon does a great job of describing the wide variety that exists among families. Big and small, one parent or two, adoptive or kinship, two mom's or none, she has made sure there is variety and validation for each and every constellation she describes and those she does not. With vivid illustrations, each family is talked about in terms that young schoolagers will relate to. Simon ends the book by talking about the ways families support each other during good times and bad.

Pact says: A very sweet book that affirms the differences between us while underscoring the significance of families. Ideal for classroom use or to curl up in a big chair and read with that child who needs to be reminded that his or her family is very special.

Amazing.jpg Amazing Grace
by Mary Hoffman

When told she cannot be Peter Pan in the school play because she's a girl and because she's Black, Grace challenges the racist, sexist attitudes at her school (with the help of her family) and prevails. Grace's mother and grandmother teach her to fight bias by preparing, not by trying to protect her - a lesson useful for all parents.

Pact says: An inspiring favorite that should be in every child’s library!

antonioscard.jpg Antonio's Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio
by Rigoberto Gonzalez and Cecilia Alvarez

Antonio loves his routine-being dropped off at school by his mother in the morning and picked up by her partner, Leslie, in the afternoon. Some of the children in his class begin to make comments about Leslie's unusual height, her masculine appearance, and her paint-splattered overalls. It takes sharing a love of art and of family with Leslie for Antonio to feel ready to claim his family publicly. Sensitively written in English, with an excellent translation by Jorge Argueta, the narrative captures the social worries and concerns that children in all kinds of "nontraditional families" may experience.

Pact says: This story deals brilliantly with issues of inclusion.

Borya and the Burps
by Joan McNamara, Illustrated by Dawn W. Majewski

This book is set in an orphanage in Eastern Europe and tells the story from the perspective of the child (Boyra) rather than the adults. Boyra watches and wonders about everything that is going on around him as his journey to adoption progresses.

Pact says: We love this book because it gives parents and children the chance to think about how kids feel safe and comfortable based on where they have been before rather than parents' own expections for what a child would want.

Chocolate-Me.jpg Chocloate Me!
by Taye Diggs & Shavne Evans

Chocolate Me! tackles the topic of racially motivated teasing using simple text appropriate for even very young readers. The author notes that he spent part of his childhood is a predominately white community where he was constantly asked why his skin was dark and his hair kinky. The boy in the story is having the same experience. An appealing book with an affirming message about feeling good about one’s self - no matter what others might say. The book specifically affirms the beauty of African American skin and hair.

Pact says: A book that can offer a way to open the conversation with young children about a difficult experience.

by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum's parents always told her that her name was perfect, and she thought so too until her first day of school when the kids teased her. An old classic that helps children explore their fears about being teased and desire to fit in.

Pact says: For every child who struggles when other kids make fun of them. Inspirational and funny.

TheColorsOfUs.jpg Colors of Us
by Karen Katz

Lena discovers that she and her friends and neighbors are all beautiful shades of brown. "I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up," says Lena. Then she sees everyone else in terms of delicious foods: Mom is the color of French toast. Lena's friend Sonia is the color of creamy peanut butter. Isabella is chocolate brown like the cupcakes they had for her birthday.

Pact says: A tasty approach to differences in skin color.

Con Mi Hermano / With My Brother
by Eileen Roe

A young boy treasures time with his older brother and is sad when he goes off to school. A nice depiction of brotherly love, with characters who just happen to be Latino and bilingual text. This simple, repetitive story paints a reassuring picture of family life and supportive relations. The Spanish text, rendered without regionalisms, is as direct and simple as the English version.

Pact says: A sweet book with colorful illustrations that speaks to how younger siblings look up to older ones.

DaveThePotter.jpg Dave The Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Brian Collier

Dave was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living in South Carolina in the 1800s. He combined his superb artistry with deeply observant poetry, carved onto his pots, transcending the limitations he faced as a slave.

Pact says: Dave The Potter, is a beautifully written book about an enslaved African man who was a talented potter. The book paints a lovely picture of Dave's artwork and how his pieces were crafted, but it seems to gloss over the fact that it was a brutal system that stole people’s freedom, families, and lives. As part of a collection this book is a great addition, as a stand-alone book to explain slavery this book is not enough.

dearprimo.jpg Dear Primo, A Letter to My Cousin
By - Tonatiuh, Duncan

From first-time author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in NY City, America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar. Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of two very different childhoods, while also emphasizing how alike Charlie and Carlitos are at heart.

Pacts Says: Spanish words are scattered among the English text, providing a wonderful way to introduce the language and culture of Mexico to young children. A nice book for adoptees who are thinking about what life might have been in their country of birth vs what it is like in their American home.

Dona Flor
by Pact Mora, Illustrated by Raoul Colon

Un cuento de una mujer gigante con un gran corazon / A tall tale about a giant woman with a great big heart. A combination of color washes, etchings and pencils along with the expansive story and imagination of Mora, give Dona Flor a brilliant intensity that is representative of Latino lore. Spanish words and glossary. n a charming tale set in the American Southwest, Dona Flor is larger than life. At first the children are intimidated, but they grow used to Flor, who is always willing to help them out and learn that people’s hearts are more important than their looks.

Pact says:A beautiful book; a story with heart and imagination.

doubledip.gif Double Dip Feelings
by Barbara Cain

What we love about this book is that it identifies contradictory emotions and delivers the message that it is natural to have them. That makes this book really useful with children who are happy to be adopted but also sometimes feel sad. Unfortunately it has somewhat uninteresting iillustrations and somewhat boring text.

Pact says: This book doesn't give a lot of hints for resolving problems, but in the hands of a good therapist and/or creative parent it offers reassurance about having conflicted feelings.

Heart-and-Soul.jpg Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
by Kadir Nelson

This book is unique in it’s telling of American History from the perspective of African Americans. It is more of an overview than an in depth work of history, but contains details that one often doesn’t learn in school. The story is told in the voice of an old man passing along the story of African Americans to the younger generation, giving it a conversational feel that reads much more like a story than a textbook. The book is greatly enriched by Nelson’s incredible artwork.

Pact says: A wonderful introduction to African American history for younger children that is engaging and very readable..

Henrysfreedom.jpg Henry's Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The story recounts the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who was separated from his family and eventually meets and has three children with another slave. In a heart wrenching scene depicted in a dramatically shaded pencil, watercolor and oil illustration, Henry watches as his family—suddenly sold in the slave market—disappears down the road. Henry then enlists the help of an abolitionist doctor and mails himself in a wooden crate “to a place where there are no slaves!”

Pact says: the story depicts the evolution of a self-possessed child into a determined and fearless young man. A good way to help parents talk with their children about slavery and other losses (like adoption) that have to be overcome.

Hip-hop-Speaks-to-Children.jpg Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat
by Nikki Giovanni

This collection of poetry and song lyrics is a joy to read. Inside the beautifully illustrated book are works by everyone from W.E.B. Dubois to Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou to Mos Def. The CD has many works performed by the artists including poems read by Langston Hughes and part of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Pact says: An accessible collection of poetry for children mostly by African American artists. Some poems touch deeply on the subject of race while others are just fun to read..

InGodsName.jpg In God's Name
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Illustrated by Phoebe Stone

Everyone and everything in the world has a name. What is God’s name? In this appealing book relaying God’s many names, the energetic illustrations enhance the feeling of celebration. The visual elements of this book elicit a sense of wonder in the reader, all the more moving because people from many cultures share the belief in a higher power.

Pact says: This book can be particularly comforting to adopted children trying to make sense of their personal journey in a spiritual context. Non-deonominational, written by a Jewish Rabbi with an eye to interfaith sensitivity.

Kids Like Me In China
by Ying-Ying Fry

“Hi! My name is Ying Ying,” this book begins. “I am eight years old and I live in San Francisco. Like lots of kids in my city, I’m Chinese American. But I wasn’t born that way. When I was really small, I was just Chinese. Then my American parents came and adopted me, and that’s how I got the American part.” Ying Ying was adopted from an orphanage in Changsha, Hunan province, when she was a tiny baby. She speaks both Mandarin and English and is in third grade at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco where all of her studies are in both languages.

Pact says: Her parents have lived and worked in China and are also able to manage in Mandarin without an interpreter. The families’ language ability allowed them to interact on their own during this first visit to the “Social Welfare Institution” where Ying Ying spent her first weeks of life. Ying Ying was able to get to know the children and caregivers and really observe what orphanage life was like.

Lucy's Family Tree
by Karen Halvorsen Schreck, Illustrations by Stephen Glassler

Lucy, adopted from Mexico by white parents, feels “different,” hurt and weird when assigned to make a family tree. Her parents challenge her to find three families she thinks are “the same.” In so doing, her aha conclusion is that since most families are different in some way, any family that turned out to be the same would be the one who was different.

Pact says: This book does an authentic job of capturing the responses adopted kids have to the family tree assignment.

Mama-Miti.jpg Mama Miti
by Donna Jo Napoli

A lyrical and beautifully illustrated book inspired by the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai that describes the importance of the greenbelt movement in a very personal way, through the experiences of women who come to her for help. The text is simple and lyrical (She ends each encounter with, “Thayu nyumba – Peace, my people.”) and depicts the greenbelt movement and it’s importance from a very personal standpoint.

Pact says: A beautiful and inspiring book. Kadir Nelson did the book’s illustrations – these are a mix of paint and collage – and they are as powerful and beautiful as the rest of his work..

Megan's Birthday Tree
by Laurie Lears, Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

When Kendra, Megan’s birth mother, writes to say she is getting married and moving to a different town, Megan is worried she will forget her, especially since the “birthday tree” she planted when Megan was born is in her old backyard. The story ends when Megan finds out that Kendra has transplanted the birthday tree, and will be continuing to send pictures of it to Megan each year.

Pact says: Very sweet, perhaps somewhat idyllic but this book definitely explores the importance of their birth parents to children this age.

mommyfar.gif Mommy Far, Mommy Near
by Carol Antoinette Peacock

Elizabeth was adopted from China. While her mother finds many openings to talk about adoption -- looking at her album, pointing out differences in how they look, describing how they adopted their dog, etc. - it isn't until Elizabeth sees a Chinese mother and daughter at the playground that she understands that she has lost her own birth mother. Elizabeth's mom doesn't try to fix what she cannot but responds perfectly with her show of love.

Pact says: The game of “look” (a must-do ritual for reinforcing attachment and truly seeing one another) is enfolded in the story.

MyNameisMaria.jpg My Name is Maria Isabel
By Alma Flor Ada

Maria Isabel is hurt when her teacher decides to call her Mary to distinguish her from two other Maria’s in the class, but it interferes with her performance in school. Maria is proud of her name and heritage. Eventually her teacher understands.

Pact says: When shy Maria Isabel finally finds a way to tell the truth about her feelings she acknowledges that she isn’t comfortable trying to be someone else with a different name. The story speaks to experience of anyone who has felt insecure when authority figures seem to want to change their identity - the parallel to adoption is obvious.

mypeople.jpg My People
by Langston Hughes, Photographed by Charles Smith, Jr.

The inspirational words of Hughes’ poem are brought to life through a collection of sepia-colored photographs that capture the diverse features, hearts, and souls of its subjects. Introducing the poem two or three words at a time, Smith pairs each phrase with a portrait of one or more African-Americans; printed in sepia, the faces of his subjects materialize on Black pages.

Pact says: Inspire a child with beautiful depictions in word and photo of what it means to be part of the African diaspora!

oftheeising.jpg Of Thee I Sing, A Letter to My Daughters
By Barack Obama, Illustrated by Loren Lon

A tender letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to 13 historically important Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation; from the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson and the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children. Illustrated by a best-selling, award-winning artist whose images capture the personalities and achievements of these great Americans and the innocence and promise of childhood.

Pact says: We can all be inspired by America’s first Black president to see ourselves in the many positive traditions and heroes that are part of our collective heritage.

TheSkinYouLiveIn.jpg Skin You Live In, The
by Michael Tyler and David Lee Csicsko

This picture book takes a cheerful look at human diversity by focusing on skin. Rhyming verses describe the many experiences that can be had in it in a variety of hues. The poem ends by emphasizing the importance of the " 'You' who's within" and pointing out that skin is something that makes individuals different and similar at the same time.

Pact says: This is an affirming addition to the collection of books dealing with self-esteem and multiculturalism.

staroftheweek.jpg Star of the Week
by Darlene Friedman and Roge

The authors take a sensitive, often upbeat look at Cassidy-Li’s feelings about her adoption as she puts together her personal poster. “I love my parents, but I’m sad about my birthparents,” she says, stating simply the complicated dichotomy which adoptees live.

Pact says: Star of the Week serves as an excellent springboard for discussion about taking adoption to school.

plumfantastic.jpg Sugar Plum Ballerinas: #1 Plum Fantastic
by Whoopi Goldberg, Deborah Underwood and Maryn Roos

Moving is never easy, but for Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson, the move from a small southern town to Harlem is unbearable. Al's winning personality leads her to make a few friends, but just as things seem to be getting better she courts jealousy by being cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the annual performance of The Nutcracker. This first book in a series earnestly addresses the effects of moving, making friends, and settling into a new routine.

Pact says: Fast paced and entertaining, with unique, multicultural characters and positive messages about friendship, honesty, materialism, and forgiveness as well as the challenges of life for girls, these books are fun to read and give a positive message to girls of color in particular.

toeshoetrouble.jpg Sugar Plum Ballerinas: #2 Toeshoe Trouble
by Whoopi Goldberg, Deborah Underwood and Maryn Roos

Nine-year-old Brenda Black is a budding ballet dancer and wannabe doctor. Brenda and her friends hatch a plan to "borrow" their ballet teacher's prized ballet shoes, autographed by a famous prima ballerina. The plan goes awry when Tiffany's pooch chews them to shreds, and the Sugar Plum Sisters must fix the unfixable.

Pact says: Fast paced and entertaining, with unique, multicultural characters and positive messages about friendship, honesty, materialism, and forgiveness as well as the challenges of life for girls, these books are fun to read and give a positive message to girls of color in particular.

perfectlyprima.jpg Sugar Plum Ballerinas: #3 Perfectly Prima
by Whoopi Goldberg, Deborah Underwood and Maryn Roos

Perfectionistic Jerzey Mae desperately wants to be a ballet dancer. But she's frustrated by her own lack of talent--and by her friends' jokes about her terrible dancing. Things get even worse when her little brother Mason attends her ballet class, totally embarrassing Jerzey in front of her prima ballerina idol, Miss Camilla Freeman. (Hardcover)

Pact says: Fast paced and entertaining, with unique, multicultural characters and positive messages about friendship, honesty, materialism, and forgiveness as well as the challenges of life for girls, these books are fun to read and give a positive message to girls of color in particular.

Terribleterrel.jpg Sugar Plum Ballerinas: #4 Terrible Terrel
by Whoopi Goldberg, Deborah Underwood and Maryn Roos

Terrel is always in charge, whether she's making lists for grocery shopping (her favorite hobby, AFTER ballet), keeping her brothers in line, or organizing father-daughter time in with her dad. Lately, though, her dad's been acting a little strange--wearing new clothes and way too much aftershave. Things get even weirder when he surprises Terrel with his new girlfriend during a night out at the ballet - a night that was supposed to be father-daughter time.

Pact says: Fast paced and entertaining, with unique, multicultural characters and positive messages about friendship, honesty, materialism, and forgiveness as well as the challenges of life for girls, these books are fun to read and give a positive message to girls of color in particular.

by Peter Golenbock & Paul Bacon

An account of Jackie Robinson’s difficulties as the first Black player in Major League baseball this book relates the acceptance and support he received from a white teammate. This single moment is a great way to talk about racism, courage and true brotherhood.

Pact say: A great example to demonstrate how white allies can support people of color.

Three Names of Me
by Mary Cummings, Illustrated by Lin Wang

A book that has a touching overall tone but does so in the context of inviting acknowledgment of the adopted girls history and connections before she became the girl she is now in her adoptive home. In this book, the main character, Ada, is a Chinese adoptee who is reiterating the story of her journey to her adoptive family, “Ada Lorane Bennett. That is my name. But it is not the first name I have had. It is the third.”

Pact says: Ada’s story takes her to America, but she remembers her “China mother” and her homeland with love and affection.

what-is-a-part-of-me.jpg What is a Part of Me?
by Ola Zuri, Illustrated by Jenn Simpson

A transracial adoptee of African descent herself, author Ola uses this simple text to ask questions about why she was adopted, where she comes from, who her birth parents are to name just a few. This book gives adopted children of color permission to ask questions about themselves and explore the circumstances and ongoing feelings they have about being placed transracially.

Pact says: Ola always puts forward a message of support and strong self-esteem that adopted chlldren respond to because of her validating and empowering tone.
Whole Me, The
by Ellen Baron

A story in verse about the experience of kids being adopted from the foster care system. Intended for kids aged six to twelve, we feel this book is appropriate for kids four years and up. It is presented in picture book format that children may feel makes it a "baby" book. Nevertheless, it presents authentic feelings children often have about the move from foster care to adoption.

Pact says: This book fulfills a unique purpose and will be important for children who have moved and lost more than one family.

WhyCantYouLook.jpg Why Can't You Look Like Me?
By Ola Zuri

“Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? How did you deal with it? This story a young girl who has been adopted transracially and feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere, even within her own family.” There are really two separate issues that the little girl is dealing with—lack of adult support and lack of peers—and in the book those two things get intertwined.

Pact says: While a little over simplified, the esteem-affirming message is validating and encouraging to children.

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