The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption (2002), written by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aoki and illustrated by Meilo So, is a story about international adoption that focuses on four North American families bringing their adopted daughters’ home from China.
The illustrations are lovely, although at points pages seem cluttered as the experiences of all four families are squeezed onto a single page. One family, the Suzukis, are likely Japanese, but the other families appear white. One is a heterosexual couple, one a lesbian couple, and one a single woman. They take long flights to China and meet each other in Guangzhou where they boarded “The White Swan Express” to meet their children for the first time. The authors provide information about the orphanages of the area and informal adoption culture, such as collecting trinkets to remember and celebrate the special day. The joy of each new family is lovingly captured and expressively depicted in Meilo So’s illustrations.
In a short afterword the authors explain that the story is based on one of their experiences adopting a child from China. It explains the Chinese government’s newly relaxed, although hardly eliminated, one-child policy and its effect on the availability of children, particularly girl children, in China.
It’s a fine books about a specific experience of adoption likely to appeal to many families, particularly because of its inclusive representation of family.
This review is part of my “Snapshots of LGBTQ Kid Lit” project. I’m working on a book, The New Queer Children’s Literature: Exploring the Principles and Politics of LGBTQ* Children’s Picture Books, which is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. Part of my research is identifying and interpreting English-language children’s picture books with LGBTQ* content published in the US and Canada between 1979 and 2019. Follow my blog to follow my journey!