Adoption Books For Kids: We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo

We adopted you, Benjamin Koo by Linda Walvoord Girard

Wow. I love this book! It got everything just right. We are definitely adding it to our collection!

The story is told by a nine-year-old Korean adoptee named Benjamin. He talks about a lot of the aspects of adoption that are challenging for adopted kids such as not knowing why you were placed for adoption, what your birth family was like, and trying to figure out how you fit in to your new family. It also acknowledges issues specific to IA kids such as looking different than your family, integrating birth country culture/rituals, and being teased about your appearance.

The story is direct and straightforward. It's written simply and in a language that kids will connect to. It provides a lot of great topics for parents to discuss with kids, and ways that kids can learn to handle big feelings. Here's an example:

"I began to feel angry because other kids knew their biological families, and I never would. One time, when my mom made me obey a rule, I got mad. "I'm leaving!" I shouted. "I'm going back to Korea! I'll find my real mother, and she'll be nice to me!"

My mom stayed calm. "You have a real mom, and that's me," she said. "I know you're upset, but you have to mind my rules."

I started to run away. I really did. Then I realized I'd get to the end of the sidewalk, and I wouldn't know which way Korea was!

That night Dad hugged me and said he was glad I had decided to stay. But I still felt like I was on the sidewalk, not sure where to turn."

Another great example shows how the book can help kids deal with the outside world. I thought this part of the book would be super helpful in the future, although it's really heartbreaking to think that Little Man will be teased like this one day. I sort of hate introducing kids to the idea of racial slurs though. But realistically, I know a situation like this will probably happen and this story helps us prepare him to handle it:

"I do have one problem. It's the kids at school. Fourth grade can be tough. A few kids call me "Chink" when they tease. Some people don't want to know anything about me. They just think I'm from Afghanistan or Hawaii or Timbuktu.

"I don't like him," I heard a girl say. "He's Japanese."

"Yeah, but watch out---he probably knows karate," said the other kid.

I don't know karate, and I'm not Japanese. It hurts when kids tease me or talk about me like I"m an alien from the moon.

I can answer the teasers with a fact: I'm an American. Or else I can be friendly and say, "I was born in Korea. Where were you born?" Sometimes my best bet is to ignore people when they're being mean. And I've learned to concentrate on my good friends, the kids who like me the way I am."

As for the illustrations, they are fine. Appropriate for the older audience which is exactly who this book is directed at.

Right now, this book is WAY over Little Man's age, 2 1/2. But I think maybe about 4-5 years old he'll be at the right age to start reading it, even if he doesn't fully understand everything in it.


  1. First of all, congratulations on your adoption. I am a Korean American adoptee and was raised in Colorado. Feel free to ask me any questions!

    I'm sure you could use a Korean adoptees point of view and how it was growing up in a prominent Caucasian society.

    By the way, what part of Wisconsin are you guys from? I have family in Wausau.

    1. Hi Chris! Thanks for stopping by our blog. We live in the Milwaukee area. It more diverse than Wausau, but still predominantly Caucasian. I'd love to hear more about your experiences growing up and if you have any advice for families like ours.

  2. This is one of our family's new favorite adoption books. A lot of the things in the book are now applicable to my kids in school and we have found it really helpful to start conversations about these things. And A loves that the last name is his first name!

    Great book and is a great addition to anyone's bookshelf!

  3. We have an adoption book that talks about teasing too. At 4 years old, I'm not sure it is age appropriate. On the one hand, I want to acknowledge she may be getting negative attention about her adoption/appearance and have a platform to discuss that. But on the other, she's never brought it up, and she may not experience it as much where we live as there are a lot of mixed Asian/Caucasian families where we live. I don't want to give her adoption a negative frame, is what I guess I'm trying to say. But I'm white and I have no idea what it means to be Asian. Not sure what to do...thinking that erring on the side of talking about it is better.

    1. Sarah, I completely understand the reluctance to start talking about this stuff. I'd much rather that we never had to have these conversations with our kids! But I've known some people who's children have had a tough time once they entered kindergarten. It wasn't necessarily teasing, but conversations about their being Asian. I think conversations about race in general are tough, but it's important for us to do as you said...err on the side of talking about it. I don't want the first time they hear someone talking about their race to be when they are alone and unprepared.

  4. I read this book as a kid and I remember being so excited that there was a book addressing Korean adoption. When I returned to Korea to teach English, my birth family was interviewed by a TV station and the interviewer continually asked me about my experiences with racism in America and I told him several times that I didn't really remember much racism. Later on I realized that I was wrong. I think it was that I was surrounded by so much love and so many accepting family members and friends that the racist comments I did experience didn't stick out in my mind as much. I'm thrilled that you picked up this wonderful book and shared it!

    1. Hi Laura, Thanks for sharing your story! Sorry that you experienced racism but you bring up a really great point that the strength of your family (and no doubt the strength they instilled in you) lessened the impact of those experiences. Really good to know. Please feel free to share any other insights here. Love to know things that we can do to help our families!

    2. Another thought I had was that I actually think I experience more racism as an adult than I did as a child. Maybe I'm just more aware now, but I recently went to a new job and had to listen to the women imitate the way the Asian women who do their nails speak. They said that the manicurist turned to another and said, "Thong-a-chong, twong-ting-ching..." and then said, "What are they saying?" as if they had actually said a sentence! Then began to imitate the way the women spoke when they tried to speak English. I was speechless and disappointed in myself and my inability to know what to say. My reply: "They were probably saying things about you."
      Just thought I'd share that absurd anecdote!

    3. Oh my goodness, Laura. That is just awful! I love your response! It's those types of slights that are the most challenging for me...those that have underlying racism but aren't so overt that you know exactly how to respond. I'm sure if you called those women out on their racist behavior, they would have been shocked. There are many racist behaviors/slang that are part of our American lexicon that people don't think twice about. But wrong is wrong.

  5. Our son experienced racism at 4 years old. Our daughter at 6 years old. So, unfortunately, I think it is completely age appropriate. I understand not wanting to dwell on negative or "scaring" a child prematurely.But I'd rather my child know some ways to handle these situations ahead of time instead of feeling helpless & confused in the moment. Not to make a crass comparison, but it's like the topic of sex ed. Do you want to share the information with your child AFTER they start experimenting with sexual situations, or BEFORE when you can impart your thoughts & family values? Knowledge is power?


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