The Gift of Growing up with Books to Reflect a Diverse Human Experience

by TRJ Parent and Librarian, Avril McInally

Image from The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

Meet “Peter” the small African-American child who inspired Ezra Jack Keats “The Snowy Day”.

Ezra had noticed that the main characters in the books he illustrated were always white. That didn’t seem fair to other children, who deserved to see characters in books that looked like them. He decided that Peter would be the hero of his story because “he should have been there all along.”

Origin of the Annual TRJ Bibliography

A few years ago and with a similar thought in mind, I (TRJ parent and librarian, Avril McInally) thought about searching for books for Black children with characters that look like them and reflect their experience. Then, I thought of finding books featuring characters who were adopted, biracial or LGBTQIA+. So began the annotated bibliography for families formed by transracial adoption in 2021.

A year later, Vicki Richards, a children’s librarian stepped in to help find and vet these books too because, unfortunately, some still don’t quite get the adoption experience right. For the last few years, we’ve been reading lots of books and reviewing them.

2023 Bibliography for the Giving Season and All Year Long

This year, we’re attaching the 2023 Bibliography to this month’s newsletter so you can work to:

  • Support authors and illustrators who are POC (people of color)
  • Support a small, but growing group of authors who are adoptees
  • Give books to our children and families so they can see reflections of themselves in them
  • Give books to white children and families to help them understand the perspective of children who are Black or queer or who have experienced adoption
  • So you don’t miss the boat on giving your children the opportunity to grow up with beautiful books, stories and characters that reflect their experiences

I recommend supporting independent bookstores, especially Black-owned ones and purchasing your books directly from them. If you want to visit a brick-and-mortar shop and don’t know where to find one, just call your local public library and ask a librarian to help you locate one. We have also included links to each book as found on bookshop.org which helps to support independent bookstores.

I’ll see you at TRJ camp in Athens, Ohio next summer with a fully-stocked book sale featuring our book picks for 2024!

Avril

This post is from our December, 2023, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.


Book Corner – December 2023

The Night Before Kwanzaa

By Natasha Wing
Illustrated by  Amy Wummer and Kirsti Jewel
Pre-kindergarten - Grade 2 

A young boy is excited for the arrival of his older brother. He is looking forward to celebrating Kwanzaa with him and the rest of their family. As a candle is lit on the Kinara each night, simple (yet heartwarming) illustrations depict the accompanying seven principles of Kwanzaa.

There is a familiarity in this sweet book as it may remind older readers of “The Night Before Christmas” - one of the most well-known poems about the holiday.

This is a recommended read for multicultural families as it blends an old tradition (reading the old poem) with new ones (celebrating the principles of Kwanzaa).

Books for Transracial Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – June 2023

Second Dad Summer

Benjamin Klas and Fian Arroyou
Grades 4-7, Ages 9-12

This story about friendship and family takes place over a hot summer near downtown Minneapolis. Jeremiah is spending the summer with his dad and his dad’s boyfriend, Michael. Jeremiah is sometimes embarrassed by Michael’s outgoing, colorful personality, and he’s reluctant to let down his barriers with his dad’s boyfriend. However, a new friendship, gardening and a rocky relationship with a grumpy, elderly neighbor work to build a relationship between the two.

Book Recommendation for Diverse Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – February 2023

And We Rise:
The Civil Rights Movement in Poems

By Erica Martin

Grades 7 and Up

After having read about Claudette Colvin’s refusal to give up her seat on the bus to a white person, author Erica Martin was intrigued. Who was Claudette Colvin and why don’t we know about her? After all, she had done the same thing Rosa Parks did and before Rosa Parks did it too! Wondering what else she didn’t know about the history of Black people in America, Ms. Martin went on to create this chronology of historic, tragic and inspiring events from recent history. The events are described in brief, accessible poems. This is a useful resource for those of us having conversations about race in America with our children. Highly recommended!

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner: Holiday Guide 2022

From Newborns to Adults

The Book Corner is a consistent favorite in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters and our parents are always looking for age-appropriate books with themes of diversity, inclusion and adoption.  The Book Corner's creators, Avril McInally, MLS and Victoria Richards, MLS, bring us this Holiday Guide for 2022 - a great roadmap for picking books as holiday gifts for our families and friends.

Click on the image or the link below to download a 9-page annotated bibliography for families formed by transracial adoption with a focus on the intersectionalities of adoption, race, ethnicity, gender expression and identity. 

Download Holiday Guide 2022

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – November 2022

For Children Ages 2-5

I Am Thankful:
A Thanksgiving Book for Kids
By Sheri Wall, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

This sweet rhyming story follows three families as they prepare for Thanksgiving. Everyone is cooking and baking. One family visits a pumpkin patch, another donates to the food bank. Some travel on a plane to be together, and a child talks to a far-away father on the phone. Readers will see different ways to get ready and celebrate, including looking at old photos together, doing a puzzle with a big brother, and decorating the table. On the big day everyone enjoys delicious food, and most important, time with people they love. I Am Thankful is a joyful story, with lots of ideas to inspire new traditions. There are plenty of wonderful things to do inside – including a section of Thanksgiving projects for kids.

Book Recommendations for Transracial Families

For Children Ages 4-8

Our Little Kitchen
By Jillian Tamaki
Illustrated by …

A diverse group of adults and children come together to prepare a community meal. Bursting with energy, the book is a lively celebration of sharing “what we’ve got, what we’ve grown.” Including a recipe for yummy vegetable soup, Our Little Kitchen is a fun read for anytime – and a great choice to inspire gratitude and caring.

Book Recommendations for Transracial Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – Mental Health Month

For Children Ages 2-5

B is for Breathe:
The ABCs of Coping with Fussy and Frustrating Feelings
(Kids Healthy Coping Skills series)
By Dr. Melissa Munro Boyd

What can kids do to cope when they have big feelings? Some might find it helpful to create art. Others might want a hug, or to listen to music, or go for a nature walk. B is for Breathe contains all of these ideas and many more – one for each letter of the alphabet. Reading this book would be a wonderful way to start a conversation with a child about healthy ways to deal with their emotions.

Books for Young Transracial Adoptees

For Children in Grades 2-7

Stuntboy, in the Meantime
By Jason Reynolds
Illustrated by Raul the Third

Stuntboy, aka Portico, lives in a castle, aka an apartment building, with his mom, dad and grandma, but not for long, as his parents are separating. Stuntboy tries to use his superhero power to maneuver his way through the “frets,” which he gets whenever his parents argue. To cope, he often goes down the hall to his best friend Zola’s apartment, where he learns to breathe, meditate and watch their favorite TV show together. Written in the style of a graphic novel, Stuntboy is an entertaining title for all – and a meaningful and helpful book for kids who are struggling with anxiety.

This book is almost a graphic novel, but is cataloged as a novel.

book recommendations for transracial adoptive parents

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – Back to School

For Children Going to Preschool Through Grade 3

All Are Welcome

By Alexandra Penfold
Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

The Day You Begin

By Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

The first day of school is scary – especially when you are worried about fitting in. Will there be other kids who look like you? Will the other kids like you if your clothes or lunch or language is different from theirs? Both of these reassuring books feature happy inclusive classrooms. Children of different colors, nationalities, and religions are shown learning and having fun together. Reading one – or both – of these books with your young child will help ease the back-to-school jitters.

Transracial Adoption Books
Transracial Adoption Books

For Girls Going Into Grades 7 and Up

You Are More Than Magic: The Black and Brown Girls’ Guide to Finding Your Voice

By Minda Harts

Full of great advice and written in a friendly style, You Are More Than Magic is an affirming and helpful guide for all girls of color. The book contains chapters on what to look for in a friend, finding mentors, setting boundaries, saying what you mean (without being mean), speaking up for yourself, and much more. At the end of the book the author includes a discussion guide, a section for caregivers of girls of color, questions for white readers, and other useful resources. Truly an excellent book for girls of color and the people who care about them.

Transracial Parenting Book

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.