Thursday, November 8, 2012

Adoption Kids' Book Review: The White Swan Express

The White Swan Express has lots of potential. It’s the story of formation of four adoptive families from North America who are each adopting an infant from China. The book is illustrated beautifully by Hong Kong-born Meilo So, and its authors have direct times to adoption; Okimoto is the daughter of an adoptee and a therapist, Aoki writes the book based on her experience of becoming a family.

The book tells a compelling story: all around North America, families wake up on the morning of their journey to China. In China, the babies sleep. The families arrive in China with a mixture of anxiety and excitement; they meet together and develop a bond because of their shared experience. The nannies wake the babies and bring them to the embassy. Finally they meet and “it was as if they’d always been theirs.”  The families go their separate ways, but still keep in touch.

This story seems like it would be most helpful to prospective adoptive parents. This is the story of how your adoption will go, more or less. In that context, though, I question the immediacy of the connection. For many adoptive parents, the first meeting doesn’t bring forth feelings of “she has always been mine.” Sometimes those feelings grow over time. Prospective parents could be unwittingly misled by this one particular page.  The authors do include a wonderful afterword, which explains the process in more detail, and which (for me) salvages the book.

Young children adopted internationally – and particularly from China - might enjoy this book as an introduction to their parents’ story, but it doesn’t really capture the “story of me” for the child. If you’re adopting internationally, this is a good book to have in your library, but it really shouldn’t be the only one.

If you're in a reading mood, check out my growing list of adoption kids' book reviews!

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