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Refugees & Immigration KS2

Refugees and Immigration Booklist (KS2)

We’ve put together a list of recommended texts for primary school aged children on the topic of refugees and immigration. For this community booklist, we asked our community of primary teachers, TAs, children’s authors, librarians and book lovers to nominate their top recommended texts that explore the topic of immigration and the refugee experience.
NB: This booklist is aimed at KS2 (ages 7-11). If you are looking for KS1 books for this topic, we have a separate booklist here.

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Chapter books about refugees and immigration

Michael Morpurgo
 & Michael Foreman
Chapter book

Award-winning storyteller Sir Michael Morpurgo brings his loyal readership a brand new novel this autumn, brought to life with line illustrations by Michael Foreman.

Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver is a heartwarming refugee story about hope and humanity in times of being without a place to call home. Omar is making the perilous journey across the sea to England after his home in Afghanistan has been devastated by war. After seeing his family torn apart, Omar and his mother walk for miles to reach the coastline in order to board a boat heading to a safer place to find refuge. Not having enough money to pay the fare for two, Mother persuades Omar to take the journey to England alone and wait for her there. Uncle Said owns a cafe on Fore Street, Mevagissey and Omar repeats the address over and over so that he doesn’t forget where to wait.

The sea journey is terrifyingly perilous and before long waves are crashing over the sides and Omar watches the boat fill with water as hope of being reunited with mother begins to fade. A powerful sea storm sees Omar losing consciousness and after a while he awakes on the shores of an island. Taking in the crowd of friendly and curious faces staring at him and hearing a few words that he recognises from his limited English, Omar dares to hope that he has reached England’s shores at last. There’s only one problem; the people here are small enough to fit in his hand and he is a mountainous giant by comparison. Omar soon realises much to his dismay that this is not England but the island of Lilliput, which keen-eyed readers may recognise from the story of Gulliver’s Travels set a few hundred years before. Now, the Lilliputians call Omar a ‘Son of Gulliver’ and welcome him with warmth and kindness. But Omar soon discovers that the island is under threat, and the peace-making legacy of Gulliver from the past needs his help to be restored.

This is a gripping story offering an original twist on a well-loved classic. The story of Gulliver is cleverly leaned upon in both structure and narrative and the revisiting of Lilliput is delightful to those familiar with the details and themes of Gulliver’s Travels. Importantly, it does not matter that the majority of young readers will be unfamiliar with the original, as Morpurgo explains all the necessary background through the story.

With important themes of reconciliation, kindness to strangers and the devastating effects of war, this is a thrilling read that raises questions about whether humanity will ever learn from its past as well as being an imaginatively-rendered encouragement to individuals to seek reconciliation over conflict in everyday situations.

Simon Fox
Chapter book

Following the journey of Alex and his father across Europe as they attempt to escape a brutal government and seek refuge, Running Out of Time is a unique blend of science fiction and thriller, while also tackling some difficult real-life current events including refugee journeys across Europe.

The story is full of action and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat while showing just a fraction of the emotional toll those fleeing conflict face in their journey to safety. The author states in their afterword that the book is not an attempt to convey all the difficulties that refugees face, however, I believe that the book would be a great way to begin to open up conversations about this topic.

The narrative alternatives between different time perspectives, with each chapter having a title page identifying which time period it is set in.

A five-star read for Y6!

Alan Gibbons
 & Chris Chalik
Chapter book

A football-themed short story by Blue Peter award winner and Carnegie Medal nominated author Alan Gibbons. This book is set in a dyslexia-friendly format and offers an engaging story that can be enjoyed by those 8 and upwards. Home Ground will engage those wanting a story about ‘the beautiful game’ but, more than that, is a story of friendship and overcoming prejudice.

This is a great book to introduce the importance of being tolerant and accepting others, irrespective of where they’re from. Home Ground is packed full of interesting information about the journeys refugees have undertaken and their reasons, which helps to give context to this story. Children also learn fascinating facts about former refugees who have been successful in top-flight teams both here and abroad.

Elizabeth Laird
Chapter book

This story is one that stayed in my thoughts for a long time after reading it. It tells the story of Omar and his family who live in Syria. Civil War breaks out and impacts on the family in different ways, eventually leading to them to flee Syria and become refugees. This realistic, moving story is an important read in opening children’s eyes and helping them to understand the plight of refugees.

Ele Fountain
Chapter book

A harrowing account of how one boy makes the journey to freedom and ultimately safety. Eye opening to anyone who is new to the subject and a must share in classrooms.

Onjali Q. Rauf
 & Pippa Curnick
Chapter book

This is a truly lovely story with themes of refugees and inclusion, pitched just right to build empathy, promote kindness, and encourage readers to challenge stereotypes and question opinions that may not be based on fact. The story is filled with so much warmth and truth, pitched perfectly for stimulating some really great discussions with youngsters.

Ahmet is a refugee, and is given a previously empty seat at the back of the class when he starts a new school. He is befriended by the narrator of the story. Through the story, we learn about Ahmet’s background and the ups and downs of integrating into a new school. Kindness and friendship triumph, and the story develops empathy and encourages human connection. A good story for KS2 children to read and discuss.




Gill Lewis
 & Jo Weaver
Chapter book

A very special and quite beautiful book from award-winning Gill Lewis, magnificently illustrated by Jo Weaver. It tells the moving tale of Rami, one of many refugees crowded into a boat sailing towards their dream of a safe refuge. As they travel, they tell their stories and Rami has his violin which when played, weaves the most lyrical story of freedom. A stunning, rich, emotive book.

Victoria Williamson
Chapter book

.The Fox and the White Gazelle is a glorious and inspiring, if sometimes heartbreaking, story of the power of hope, understanding and friendship. Set in Glasgow the story is told from the point of view of the two main characters – Caylin, a school bully who we soon discovering is fighting a battle of her own and Reema, a Syrian refugee who is trying to fit in to a new country with a new language, far from all she has ever known.

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is a masterful piece of writing which exhibits themes of friendship, belonging, empathy, understanding and, most of all, hope. This is a book that deserves to be read by older primary school children and beyond. It is a book that forces us to look inside ourselves and reassess how we could all be a little bit kinder and a little bit more understanding. Beautifully written and essential reading.

Jess Butterworth
 & Rob Biddulph
Chapter book

So many children in our world live in conflict and war zones every day, and face perilous journeys to find somewhere they can live in peace, without fear. Books that tell their stories with empathy, compassion and understanding, as shown in Running On The Roof Of The World, deserve a place in every School Library and Class Library from Upper Key Stage 2 onwards.

A gripping adventure, filled with danger, sorrow and hope. Jess Butterworth brings the Himalayas within touching distance with her ability to conjure the sights and sounds with perfect clarity in the reader’s mind. It’s a must read for all our children. If they can’t imagine the lives that other children face in our world, they won’t have the compassion, empathy and understanding needed to help begin to make all of our world a friendlier place to live.

Kelly Yang
 & Maike Plenzke
Chapter book

This is a deeply moving story that has left an impact long after reading it and is the first a highly recommended series. Inspired by the author’s own childhood, the story charts the experiences of a Chinese girl called Mia living in America with her parents, and explores the themes of immigration, prejudice, poverty, institutionalised racism and what it looks like to hold onto hope in turbulent times.

Having immigrated to California from China, Mia’s family run a motel. Life is hard work, money is short, the American people are unpredictable and the motel owner, Mr Yao, is not somebody to be crossed. Yet Mia observes life around her with heart and humour, seeing the best in people and following her parents’ lead to offer compassion and help in all circumstances. Full of concern for the plight of immigrants in America, Mia’s parents use the empty motel rooms as a place of refuge. The racial injustice and sheer cruelty that Mia witnesses in the treatment of fellow human beings is deeply unsettling. Throughout the story, Mia becomes a beacon of light for many, as she works to navigate the challenging circumstances around her with integrity and hope.

Mia’s account of the difficulties her family faces as immigrants in modern-day America is moving and powerful. Mia is a thoroughly likeable main character who shows courage, determination and kindness even in the most difficult of circumstances and – on top of all of life’s difficulties – never gives up on pursuing her own dreams and reaching for the stars.

This is a beautiful story that gently stirs the soul and is recommended for upper KS2.

Catherine Bruton
Chapter book

A superb read. This is a gripping and thought-provoking story exploring the experience of an eleven-year-old girl fleeing conflict in Syria. Aya’s tale is told with such compassion that takes the reader on a real empathy journey. No Ballet Shoes in Syria is an important story that is beautifully told with warmth and compassion.

Graphic novels about refugees and immigration

Sarah Garland
Graphic Novel

This important and very topical text uses a comic-book style to portray some of the experiences of some refugee families. Azzi and her family flee their home and find themselves on a frightening and dangerous journey to a new country. In her new home, Azzi is faced with adapting to a foreign way of life, starting a new school and learning to speak English. This is an excellent, thought-provoking text that presents a difficult topic in a way that evokes empathy and understanding in young readers.

Picturebooks about refugees and immigration

Zana Fraillon
 & Grahame Baker Smith
Idris is a child refugee, born into a world of tents and fences. He has known no other life than this. He has no memories of the world outside.Then the Wisp arrives, floating in on the evening breeze. Everyone who holds it finds their memories reawakened, their hopes of freedom reborn. But what about Idris, who has no memories? What will happen when he holds the magical Wisp?Storytelling and imagination have the power to offer hope in this extraordinary picture book from the Amnesty CILIP Honour-winning author of The Bone Sparrow, Zana Fraillon, and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning illustrator Grahame Baker Smith.
Shaun Tan

A very topical migrant story told through textless images. When a man leaves his family to search for a better life for them far away, he finds himself in a strange city with all sorts of unfamiliar people, bizarre animals and floating objects. Nothing is familiar, and owning only a suitcase and a little bit of money, the immigrant must navigate his way through his sense of deep displacement and find a way of connecting with the people he meets. This compelling book captures the brave act of leaving everything behind and searching for a future in another world.

Ben Morley
 & Carl Pearce

A great tale of how an asylum-seeking family move next door to an American family, and the boys of both families make friends even though they don’t share the same language. The book raises lots of questions about the world, and is great for exploring ‘kindness’ as a virtue. Suitable for KS1 and KS2.

Nicola Davies
 & Laura Carlin

A powerful and poignant picture book from the incredible Nicola Davies with expressive, emotive and challenging illustration by the gifted Laura Carlin. The story, nominated for the 2018 Greenaway Medal, tells of a young boy starting a new life in a mining community in Wales having moved from Italy. He befriends Mr Evans who races pigeons, and there follows a sensitive exploration of the boy’s feelings. With a focus on making people welcome and empathising with those in similar situations, this is a fabulous book to use in the classroom. Various teaching notes available from CLPE, Amnesty UK and the publishers Walker will give teachers a springboard with planning too.

Non-fiction books about refugees and immigration

Katie Dayne,Asha de Sousa
 & Oksana Drachkovska
With simple, direct questions, thoughtful, compassionate answers and stunning illustrations by the Ukrainian artist Oksana Drachkovska, this book explores what it really means to be a refugee. Written with advice from the Refugee Council and drawing on conversations with refugees and aid workers from around the world, the questions cover all stages of a refugee's journey, from fleeing danger and embarking on hazardous journeys, to seeking asylum and struggling to find a new place to call home. The language and scenes have been carefully considered to be appropriate for younger children, providing an extremely useful educational tool for families and schools.

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