If your children are anything like mine, they are hearing discussions of immigration and refugee status on the news, on the playground, maybe even quoting everyone's favorite Musical, "Immigrants, we get the job done!" Your children may have a lot of questions about immigration and migration and where do you go for those answers? Our team has compiled this list of 25 books to help even the youngest child understand the sacrifice and strength necessary to immigrate to another country. These stories follow brave and determined individuals on their journey to a new life. These are the 25 Best Books about Immigrants and Refugees.
25. The Name Jar
The Name Jar was written by Yangsook Choi. This book will help your children that might be a little nervous about going to a new school. Unhei is nervous because she is afraid that no one will be able to pronounce her name and that no one will want to be her friend. She decides not to tell anyone her name and instead she decides that she just go pick a new name. Unhei decides that she is going to pick a new name by drawing names out of a jar. The jar goes missing and her new friends decide that they want to know how to pronounce her name.
24. Two White Rabbits
Two White Rabbits is by Jairo Buitrago. This books shares a detailed story of a young child’s trip towards the border of the United States. She talks about how her family spent most of their time in very dangerous situations and she was too young to understand what was going on. This book will help you explain to your children that this journey is hard now but it will help give them a better life in the future. This book is very interesting because it shows the journey through the eyes of the child.
23. One Green Apple
One Green Apple is by Eve Bunting. This book is about a young girl from the Middle East that feels very alone when she starts going to her new school. She does not communicate with those around her because she does not speak very much English. She finds comfort on a school trip to an apple orchard when she hears familiar sounds that she remembers when she was back at home. She starts to bond with her classmates as they make apple cider together and she finally starts to feel like she is not alone. This book will help you show your children that it does get better even if it hard at first.
22. Grandfather's Journey
Grandfather’s Journey is by Allen Say. This is a beautiful book that will explain to your children that you can have a love for more than one country. This book also shows that you are not necessarily leaving your country because you hate it but so that they can you can also leave because you know that you will have a better life somewhere else in the world. This is a personal book for the author because it tells the story of his grandfather’s journey to the United States and his love of two countries.
21. Apple Pie 4th of July
Apple Pie 4th of July is by Janet S. Wong. This book is about a first generation Chinese-American that is upset that her parents are not cooking traditional American food on the fourth of July. Her family was making sweet-and-sour pork while everyone else was cooking hamburgers and hotdogs. You can see her mood start to change once she starts to smell the amazing food that her family was cooking while watching fireworks and eating apple pie. At the end of the day she learns a powerful message that America is made up of all kinds of cultures and that is something to be proud of.
20. Four Feet, Two Sandals
Four Feet, Two Sandals is by Karen Lynn Williams. The book was inspired by a refugee that felt like that there were no books that represented her and what she went through to come to the United States. This book is about two young girls that find joy when they each find a sandal that is part of a matching pair. The problem is that there are four feet and only two sandals. Instead of each wearing one shoe they decide to share the pair of shoes. This book shows the lives of refugees and how deal with bad living conditions while they do hard labor every single day in order to start a new life in the United States.
Madlenka is by Peter Sis. This book shares many stories of people that live on Madlenka’s street. These people are from all of the world and they have a lot of unique stories to share. There are stories about life in France, India, Italy and many more. Your children are looking at the story as though they are sitting in the pocket on Madlenka’s jacket so they feel like they are actually hearing all of these wonderful stories first hand.
Migrant is by Maxine Trottier. Anna is a young girl from Mexico that wishes that she was a tree because then she would be deeply rooted in one place. Right now she feels like a bird because she moves all over the place. She goes north in the spring and south in the fall to plant and harvest crops for her family to sell. She does not have one place where she feels like she is truly home because her family is always moving around a lot for work. Will she ever become a tree and settle down or will she always be a bird in the sky migrating from season to season.
17. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker's Strike
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 is by Michelle Markel. This book is a beautiful picture book that shares the biography about people that immigrated from the Ukraine to the United States in the early 1900s. It shows what it’s like to be in a new country and not speak any English. It also shows that sacrifice, perseverance and hard work can pay off and help give you a much better life in a new country.
16. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey is by Margriet Ruurs. This is a picture book that tells the story of Syrian refugee Rama and her family. They had to leave their home because of the civil war that broke out in their once peaceful country. Rama and her family pack up everything they can and start their walk to Europe for a better life. This book is very beautiful and shows the strength and courage it takes to leave everything you know behind to start your life in a new country.
15. The Journey
The Journey is by Francesca Sanna. This book reflects on the refugee crisis that has been going on in the world. The artwork in this book is beautiful and bright and your children will love looking at it. This book shines light on the current refugee crisis that is going on in the world. It shows what it is like when war strikes a country and they are forced to leave everything behind in order to escape. This book focuses on the real stories of these people so that we can get a different view of what is going on. This is a great book that will be sure to open your children’s eyes to what it means to be an immigrant or refugee.
14. Mama's Nightngale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation is by Edwidge Danticat. This book is absolutely heartbreaking because it is about a family that is split up when a mother is sent to an immigration detention center. Saya is a young girl that listens to her mother’s voice on the answering machine to help her find the strength to survive. Her mother records bedtime stories so that her daughter will feel closer to her while she is in jail. This book shows what it is like to be separated from your family. It also shows what life is like when children are left on their own because of immigration.
13. Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey
Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey is by Doug Kuntz. It has a unique way of showing what it is like to be a refugee because it shows a lost cats journey to be reunited with its family. We are able to see what it is like to move from one place to another and the amount of joy you feel when you are finally reunited with your loved ones. Your children will really enjoy the beautiful artwork in this heartwarming book.
12. Inside Out and Back Again
Inside Out and Back Again is an award winning book by Thanhha Lai. This tells the story of the authors life growing up as a refugee that fled Vietnam. She and her family start a new life in Alabama and it was not an easy adventure. This book shows the healing process that takes place after starting a new life in a new unfamiliar country. This book is very enlightening and will definitely give you an appreciation for refugees and what they have to go through in order to get a better life.
11. The Red Pencil
The Red Pencil is by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Amira’s life in her village gets turned upside down when it is attacked by Janjaweed attackers. She has to take a long journey on foot to a refugee camp where she will be safe. She endures a lot of hardships along the way and she starts to lose hope. She receives the gift of a red pencil and it uplifts her spirits a little. Her new gift opens a lot of possibilities and gives her hope for the future.
10. A Long Walk to Water
A Long Walk to Water is by Linda Sue Park. This book was based on a true story about two twelve year olds that are from Sudan. The story goes back and forth between two stories from two different time periods. The story of the young girl takes place in 2008 and the story of the boy takes place back in 1985. The young girl has to walk very far to get to clean water that she will be able to drink. The boy is a refugee that is known as a lost boy. This book has a unique take on being a refugee and it will open your eyes to the hardships that these people face on a daily basis.
Landed is by Milly Lee. The main character is Sun and we follow him from China to the United States. His trip is very difficult and he is nervous about moving to America because he does not speak English. He is detained and forced to take a very hard test before he is granted access into the country. Sun has spent a lot of time studying for this test but he knows that it will not be very easy. This book explains what life was like for Chinese people after the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882.
8. Esperanza Rising
Esperanza Rising is an award winning book by Pam Munoz Ryan. Esperanza is used to living a privileged life in Mexico with her family. She has servants and beautiful clothes and everything that she could have wanted. Her world comes crashing down when she has to move to a ranch in America during the Great Depression. She and her mother have to participate in hard labor in order to make money and that is not something that they are used to doing. It is going to take a lot of strength to overcome these new obstacles.
7. Drita, My Homegirl
Drita, My Homegirl is by Jenny Lombard. This book will show your children that friends will be able to help you get through the hard times when you start a new life in a new country. Drita wants to live a normal American life after she moves to the United States with her family. She is nervous about being the new girl in school because she does not speak English. Drita is put into a group with one of the most popular girls in her class and it does not go well at first but they became friends when they least expected it.
6. When Jessie Came Across the Sea
When Jessie Came Across the Sea is by Amy Hest. This book tells the story of a little girl that has to leave her favorite person in the whole world to start a new life in America. This person is her grandma and they both are very sad about it. The young girl feels a horrible sinking feeling in the bottom of her heart as she leaves her grandma behind to start her new life. This book explains what it feels like when you leave your family behind and go to a new country where you have to start over from scratch. It takes a great deal of courage to do that and you will absolutely see that when you read this book.
5. Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty
Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty is by Linda Glaser. This poem gives a voice to the Statue of Liberty during the late 1800s when thousands of immigrants start to move to the United States. It explains that Lady Liberty was a gift to this country from France. The statue of Liberty is one of the most important symbols of this country and your children will learn all about it when they read this book.
4. Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine by is Kashmira Sheth. Seema and her family move to the United States when her father gets a new job in Iowa. Seema is 12 years old and has to go to a new school and try to make friends while she has to get used to a new country at the same time. She also has to learn how to speak English while she starts her new life. Seema and her family find ways to incorporate their Indian culture so that they can hold onto their heritage and all of the traditions that they had when they were back at home. This book will teach your children that they can still hold onto their memories so that they can always keep a piece of home with them.
3. Mama The Alien
Mama The Alien is by Renae Colato Laainez. This book has a comedic take on a rather serious issue. Sofia grew up thinking that her mom was an extraterrestrial being because she always heard the term alien. Sofia always thought that she was half alien because her mom was an alien and her father was not because he did not have a card like her mother. This book brings up the issue of being confused with identity because you might not be from the same country as your parents. This is a beautiful book with a very good message that will help you explain to your children what it means to be an alien.
2. Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue
Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War is by Marsha Skrypuch. Anh Tuyet was airlifted to Canada as a baby. She was living in a Vietnamese orphanage with 56 other babies. They were taken to Canada so that they could get out of the conflict that was happening in Vietnam at the time. The book was based on a true story and it will show children what it is like to leave a country at a very young age because of political turmoil.
1. I Lived on Butterfly Hill
I lived on Butterfly Hill is by Marjorie Agosin. This book describes what it is like for a young girl to be forced to leave her country and her family for political reasons. The Chilean government decided that free spirits and anyone who helps the needy are far too dangerous for the future of Chile so Celeste has to leave her beloved homeland of Chile. Celeste is a very happy go lucky girl that loves to spend her time dreaming but this all changes when she leaves to live in Maine. Will Celeste be reunited with her parents in Chile or will she stay in the United States forever?