White Swan Express is a tender, ebullient picture book tracks a quartet of parents in North America and a quartet of baby girls in China as everyone prepares for the "special day" they meet.
Okimoto (the daughter of an adoptee) and Aoki (the mother of an adoptee) effectively contrast the flurry of excited activity on one side of the world ("In Toronto, Howard Suzuki sang in the shower while Jessica dried her hair") with the peacefully slumbering babies on the other ("Li Shen snuggled on her side. Qian Ye slept curled in a ball").
Readers get a peek at the mechanics of international adoption (including the long plane trip and bus ride to the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou) and the emotions of the prospective parents (the government waiting room was "as silent as still water." But their hearts "thumped like drums and fluttered like the wings of a bird").
Set against clean white backdrops, So's (Tasty Baby Belly Buttons) expressive watercolors bloom like spring flowers. The parents emerge as distinct individuals, each exuding a unique energy—an impressive feat given the economy of line with which the artist articulates each impressionistic illustration.
With its matter-of-fact mix of parents that include two married couples, a lesbian couple and a single mother, the book's understated message—that families come in all shapes and sizes, and are bound together by love—comes through loudly and clearly.
Recommended for ages 5-8.