Book Review: The White Swan Express by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aok
Grown Up

Book Review: The White Swan Express by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aok

Setting the tone for this adoption story, The White Swan Express begins with a series of lovely images: Four families waking up to a sunrise in North America, followed by four baby girls sleeping soundly in the middle of the night in China. The story then follows the journey of these four families to China, where they unite with the babies, their new adopted daughters.

The authors recognize the diversity of families that adopt children. In the book, one family has a Chinese Canadian mom and dad, one has two moms, one has a single mom from Minnesota, and one has a mom and dad from Florida. They meet up at the airport in China and bond over their shared experiences of mountains of paperwork, hopeful waiting, and their long trip to China to adopt a baby girl into a loving family. Focusing as it does on the joy of the new parents, this book is a great way to teach kids about adoption.

It’s hard to give a proper sense of this book in words, since so much of it relies on vivid watercolor illustrations. From the busy market of Guangzhou, where each family buys a silver bracelet with bells for their new daughters, to the streets full of bicyclers, to the colorful koi in the pond at the parents’ hotel, the pictures brings to life the experience of adopting a child in China.

On the last page of the book, one of the authors, Elaine M. Aoki, tells the story of how she adopted a little girl from China. She describes how many of the elements in the story are taken directly from her own experience, such as the Chinese phrases and the traditional silver bracelet the families buy for their adopted children. The author’s afterword helps kids realize that the story they have just finished reading is not only a great story but also a real experience for many families.

The White Swan Express is intended for kids ages 4 to 8. Written by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aoki and illustrated by Meilo So, it is available at


Staff Writer Hannah Crawford graduated from Carleton College with a major in English and a concentration in Latin American Studies. Apart from reading, her great love is theater, which is one of the many reasons she is very excited to have recently moved to Minneapolis.