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 will help children feel more confident when starting school in a new
country. Unhei and her family immigrated to America from Korea, and she is afraid that her classmates won’t be able to pronounce her name. She decides not to tell anyone her name and instead she decides that she should pick a new name out of a jar which she calls the name jar. She inlists the help of her classmates to help fill the jar up with “Normal” names. On the day that she decides to pick a new name, the jar goes missing, so she decides to keep her name. Much to her surprise, her classmates tell her that they want to learn how to pronounce her name.
24. Two White Rabbits
Two White Rabbits is by Jairo Buitrago. It details the journey to the United States from
the perspective of a young child. She talks about how her family spent most of their time in dangerous situations, and she was too young to understand what was going on. This book will help you explain to your children that the journey might be hard now, but it will give them a better life in the future.
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 doesn’t interact with her classmates because her English is not that good. She finds comfort on a school trip to an apple orchard when she hears familiar sounds like leaves crunching and friends laughing. She starts to bond with her classmates as they make apple cider together, and she finally starts to feel like she’s 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 a personal book for the author Allen Say because it tells the story of his grandfather’s journey to the United States and his love of two countries. It’s a beautiful book that explains to your children that you can love more than one country. It also shows that you are not necessarily leaving your country because you hate it, but because you are looking for better opportunities for the future.
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 is cooking while watching fireworks and eating apple pie. She learns a powerful message that America is made up of all kinds of cultures, and that’s what makes it unique.
20. Four Feet, Two Sandals
Four Feet, Two Sandals is by Karen Lynn Williams. The book was inspired by a refugee that felt like there were no books that represented her journey 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 to deal with bad living conditions while they do hard labor every single day 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 over the world and have lots 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 hear all of these stories first hand.
Migrant is by Maxine Trottier. Anna is a young girl from Mexico that wishes 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 the time. 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 a place to call home because her family moves quite often.
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 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 a picture book that tells the story of a 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 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 a 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 to escape. This book focuses on real stories of people so that we can get a different view of what’s going on. It’s a great book that will open your children’s eyes to what it means to be an immigrant.
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 heartbreaking because it is about a family that gets split up when a mother goes to an immigration detention center. Saya is a little 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 she will feel closer to her daughter while she’s in jail. This book shows what it’s like to get separated from your family. It also shows what life is like when children are 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’s like to be a refugee. It shows a lost cats journey to get reunited with its family. Your children will see what it’s like to move from one place to another and the amount of joy you feel when you get reunited with your loved ones. Your children will 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. It tells the story of the author’s life growing up as a refugee that fled Vietnam. She and her family start a new life in Alabama, and it’s not an easy adventure. This book shows the healing process that takes place after beginning a new life in a new, unfamiliar country. This book is very enlightening and will give you an appreciation for refugees and what they have to go through 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 gets attacked. 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 is 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 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 daily.
Landed is by Milly Lee. The main character is Sun, and we follow him from China to the United States. His trip is challenging, and he is nervous about moving to America because he does not speak English. He is detained and forced to take a tough 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 lived a privileged life in Mexico with her family with servants and beautiful clothes. 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 physical labor to make money, and that’s not something they had to do in Mexico. It’s 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’s nervous about being the new girl in school because she doesn’t speak English. Drita gets paired with one of the most popular girls in her class, and it doesn’t 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. 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 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 is by Kashmira Sheth. Seema moved to the United States when her father got a new job in Iowa. She’s 12 years old and has to go to a new school and try to make friends while trying to learn a new language all at the same time. 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 to keep a piece of home with them.
3. Mama The Alien
Mama The Alien is by Renae Colato Lainez. 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 felt 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 book has a 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 living in a Vietnamese orphanage with 56 other babies. They were airlifted to Canada to get away from the conflict that was happening in Vietnam at the time. This book will show children what it’s 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 happy girl that loves to spend her time dreaming but this all changes when she moves to Maine.