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Children’s Book Recommendations:

Immigrant and Refugee Voices


Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan – “A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community.”

Beast Rider : a Boy’s Journey Beyond the Border by Tony Johnston and María Elena Fontanot de Rhoads – “Having faced great danger, 12-year-old Manuel finally succeeds in hopping a train out of Mexico but after reuniting with his brother in Los Angeles, he realizes something is not right.”

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf – “When quiet, 9-year-old Ahmet arrives in their classroom, a boy and his friends fail to draw him out but try a new plan after learning he is a Syrian refugee.”

Crossing the Farak River by Michelle Aung Thin – “14-year-old Hasina is forced to flee everything she knows in this gripping account of the refugee crisis in Myanmar.”

Efrén Divided A Novel by Ernesto Cisneros – “While his father works two jobs, 7th-grader Efrén Nava must take care of his twin siblings, kindergartners Max and Mia, after their mother is deported to Mexico.”

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Illegal (Graphic Novel) by Eoin Colfer – “Ebo’s sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows that to see them again, he must follow in their footsteps and make the hazardous voyage from Ghana to a safe haven in Europe. So the 12-year-old sets off on an epic journey that takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea.”

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai – “Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.”

This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration (Non-Fiction) by Linda Barrett Osborne  – “Explores the way government policy and popular responses to immigrant groups evolved throughout U.S. history, particularly between 1800 and 1965. The book concludes with a summary of events up to contemporary times, as immigration again becomes a hot-button issue.”

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani – “Shy 12-year-old Nisha, forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India, tries to find her voice and make sense of the world falling apart around her by writing to her deceased Muslim mother in the pages of her diary.”

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh – “14-year-old Ahmed, a Syrian refugee, and thirteen-year-old Max, an American boy, are bound by a secret that sets them on the adventure of a lifetime.”

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga – “Sent with her mother to the safety of a relative’s home in Cincinnati when her Syrian hometown is overshadowed by violence, Jude worries for the family members who were left behind as she adjusts to a new life with unexpected surprises.”

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata – “12-year-old Hanako and her family, reeling from their confinement in an internment camp, renounce their American citizenship to move to Hiroshima, a city devastated by the atomic bomb dropped by Americans.”

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney – “After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education.”

Refugee by Alan Gratz – “Although separated by continents and decades, Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape the riots and unrest in her country in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 whose homeland is torn apart by violence and destruction, embark on harrowing journeys in search of refuge, discovering shocking connections that tie their stories together.”

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez – “After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, 11-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.”

Santiago’s Road Home by Alexandra Diaz – “Fleeing abusive relatives and extreme poverty in Mexico, young Santiago endures being detained by ICE while crossing the border into the United States.”

Strike Zone by Mike Lupica – “12-year-old Nick García dreams of winning MVP of his summer baseball league, of finding a cure for his sister, of meeting his hero, Yankee pitcher Michael Arroyo, and of no longer living in fear of the government and ICE agents.”

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye – “When Aref, a 3rd-grader who lives in Muscat, Oman, refuses to pack his suitcase and prepare to move to Michigan, his mother asks for help from his grandfather, his Siddi, who takes Aref around the country, storing up memories he can carry with him to a new home.”

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago – “A young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the U.S. border.”

When Stars are Scattered (Graphic Novel) by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed – “Omar and his younger brother Hassan live in a refugee camp. When an opportunity for Omar to get an education comes along, he must decide between going to school or caring for his nonverbal brother. An intimate and touching portrayal of life in a refugee camp.”


Picture Books

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts – “A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close.”

Between Us and Abuela A Family Story From the Border by Mitali Perkins – “When Maria, Juan, and their mother go to the border between California and Mexico to visit their grandmother at Christmas, Maria must devise a way to get Juan’s gift over the fence.”

The Best Eid Ever (Non-Fiction) by Asma Mobin-Uddin  – “Aneesa and her grandmother come up with a plan to help two girls who are refugees celebrate Eid in America.”

Brothers in Hope : the Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams – “8-year-old Garang, orphaned by a civil war in Sudan, finds the inner strength to help lead other boys as they trek hundreds of miles seeking safety in Ethiopia, then Kenya, and finally in the United States.”

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies – “A powerful and necessary picture book – the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known. Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey – all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious… When the government refused to allow 3000 child refugees to enter this country in 2016, Nicola Davies was so angry she wrote a poem. It started a campaign for which artists contributed drawings of chairs, symbolizing a seat in a classroom, education, kindness, the hope of a future. The poem has become this book, movingly illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, which should prove a powerful aid for explaining the ongoing refugee crisis to younger readers.”

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales – “The author and her 2-month-old son travel from Yelapa, Mexico to San Francisco to secure permanent residency. Due to help from the area children’s librarians, she learned English as her young son learned to read, through the picture books they shared together.”

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien – “Three children from other countries (Somalia, Guatemala, and Korea) struggle to adjust to their new home and school in the United States.”

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera – “When Juan Felipe Herrera was very young, he picked flowers, helped his mama feed the chickens, slept under the starry sky, and learned to say goodbye to his amiguitos each time his migrant family moved on. When he grew up, Juan Felipe Herrera became a poet. His breathtaking poem “Imagine” and Lauren Castillo’s evocative illustrations will speak to every reader and dreamer searching for this place in life.”

Joseph’s Big Ride by Terry Farish – “A refugee boy’s determination to ride a bicycle leads to an unexpected friendship.”

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour – “Lubna’s best friend is a pebble. Pebble always listens to her stories. Pebble always smiles when she feels scared. But when a lost little boy arrives in the World of Tents, Lubna realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does.”

Migrants by Issa Watanabe – “With forceful simplicity, Migrants narrates the journey of a group of animals leaving a leafless forest. Borders must be crossed, sacrifices made, loved ones left behind.”

Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay – “After leaving his war-torn country with his family, Mustafa visits a park near his new home and finds beautiful flowers, lady bugs, fall leaves, and finally, a friend.”

My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo – “Behind Sami, the Syrian skyline is full of smoke. The boy follows his family and all his neighbors in a long line, as they trudge through the sands and hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes. But all Sami can think of is his pet pigeons–will they escape too? When they reach a refugee camp and are safe at last, everyone settles into the tent city. But though the children start to play and go to school again, Sami can’t join in. When he is given paper and paint, all he can do is smear his painting with black. He can’t forget his birds and what his family has left behind. One day a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp. They flutter around Sami and settle on his outstretched arms. For Sami it is one step in a long healing process at last.”

My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed – “As a refugee from Sudan to the United States, Sangoel is frustrated that no one can pronounce his name correctly until he finds a clever way to solve the problem.”

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh – “When Papa Rabbit does not return home as expected from many seasons of working in the great carrot and lettuce fields of El Norte, his son Pancho sets out on a dangerous trek to find him, guided by a coyote.”

Stepping Stones : a Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs – “In this picture book, a young girl and her family are forced to flee their village to escape the civil war that has engulfed Syria and make their way toward freedom in Europe.”

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild – “When war forces people to flee their homes, young refugee Peter carries a cherished family possession throughout a difficult period of survival before reflecting on its importance years later.”

Vanishing Colors by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen – “As a young refugee girl takes shelter for the night, the world appears bleak. But as she starts thinking about her happy memories, she finds the courage to hope for a better future.”

We are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta – “Why are young people leaving their country to walk to the United States to seek a new, safe home? Over 100,000 such children have left Central America. This book of poetry helps us to understand why and what it is like to be them.”

We Came to America by Faith Ringgold – “Celebrates United States immigration and the country’s diverse immigrant heritage.”

What is a refugee? (Non-Fiction) by Elise Gravel – “An accessible picture book that oh-so-simply and graphically introduces the term ‘refugee’ to curious young children to help them better understand the world in which they live. “

Where will I live? (Non-Fiction) by Rosemary McCarney  – “This photo-based picture book for younger readers takes a look at the thousands of children around the world who have been forced to flee war, terror, hunger, sickness, and natural disasters.”