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Children's Books about

Refugees & Immigration

Refugees & Immigration booklist

Recommended texts for primary classrooms on the topic of refugees and immigration.

This month, we've been asking our community of primary teachers, TAs, children's authorslibrarians and book lovers to nominate their favourite text that explores the topic of immigration.


This is what they told us... 

Welcome to Nowhere

Elizabeth Laird

Nominated by: Leia Sands (@SPS_lovetoread), school librarian

 

"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. I couldn’t put it down. "

The Arrival

Shaun Tan

Nominated by: Carly Kaplan (@sculptingminds), Upper KS2 Teacher

 

"This fantastic picture book captures migration and immigration so well. The pictures are amazing and my Y6 children were so engaged; they produced some of their best writing in fact. The discussions we had around the topic were incredible as the book can be linked to tolerance and other British values so it is cross-curricular, as well as being able to link geography and history (make any link to migration e.g. during WWII) too. I would highly recommend this book for UKS2 and beyond, and possibly even Y4."

Boy 87

Ele Fountain

Nominated by: Paul Watson (@PaulWat5), teacher and blogger at https://thegreatbritishbookworm.wordpress.com 

 

"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.'

Read the full review of this book on Paul's blog here.

The Boy at the Back of the Class

Onjali Q. Rauf

Nominated by: Sophie Anderson (@sophieinspace), children's author of The House With Chicken Legs (available here)

 

 "It is truly lovely - pitched just right to build empathy, promote kindness, and encourage readers to challenge stereotypes and question opinions that may not be based on fact. I love it! .....filled with so much warmth and truth, pitched perfectly for stimulating some really great discussions with my youngsters!"

My Name is Not Refugee

Kate Milner

Nominated by: Kate Gieler (@Glebelove2read), School librarian

 

"Written and illustrated in an accessible format for children of all ages to understand the plight of a refugee family as they try to cope in a new environment. The direct questions involve the reader or give an adult the chance to develop discussion."

The Day War Came

Nicola Davies & Rebecca Cobb

Nominated by: Literacy with Miss P (@sadiephillips), Year 5 Teacher, Literacy Co-ordinator & blogger at literacywithmissp.wordpress.com and also by Charlotte Ball (@lot_ball), Year 6 teacher.

 

Miss P says: "In 2016, our own government refused to allow 3000 child refugees to enter this country. Around the same time, Nicola Davies heard a story about a refugee child being refused entry to a school because there wasn’t a chair for her to sit on. Inspired by these heart-breaking events, The Day War Came was born. It is a poignant story, touchingly illustrated with Cobb’s innocent, childlike drawings, that tells the tragic tale of a girl who is thrust into a world of war. So emotive in its nature, with a potent message about the power of kindness and hope, the book ignited a campaign where people posted images of empty chairs as symbols of solidarity with those children who had lost everything. Published in association with Help Refugees, it is a powerful tool for opening up discussions about the ongoing refugee crisis to younger readers."

 

Charlotte says: "This is a moving picture book, that shares of the initial unwelcome refugees face when arriving in a new place. The story tells of the love of children, naive to the politics of the world, inviting other children into their world by giving up their own chair in the classroom and opening up their community to the refugees."

The Abominables

Eva Ibbotson

Nominated by:  Piers Torday (@PiersTorday), children's author of books including The Last Wild (available here) and There May Be a Castle (available here). 

 

"The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson is ostensibly an adventure story about a family of yetis who are forced to leave their home high in the Himalayas, journeying across the globe to an English country estate, where they have been promised a safe haven. Unfortunately, it turns out to be anything but. The story of their journey, how these unusual, hugely loveable creatures with unusual habits, are treated both as they travel and when they arrive in the UK, has a kind, often funny, but also sober and humane message for all of us about how we treat newcomers to this country, in the same vein as the Paddington Bear books."

Teacup

Rebecca Young & Matt Ottley

Nominated by: Simon Smith (@smithsmm), headteacher and blogger at smithsmm.wordpress.com

 

"Once there was a boy who had to leave his home...and find another.”

So begins the beautifully told story about weathering the journeys of life. “Teacup” is gently written with lyrical text and stunning artwork. The illustrations are epic and widescreen and the story is subtle and light. The boy’s teacup holds only a small amount of earth from his childhood, but little does the boy know that something is growing inside.

Teacup is a book about growing up or immigration or the importance of home or possibly none of those things. What it is however, is profound, stunning and a book to lose time in exploring its nuance and beauty."

 

The Silence Seeker

Ben Morley & Carl Pearce

Nominated by: Emma Norman, Year 3/4 Teacher

 

 

"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. Raises lots of questions about the world, and great for the ‘kindness’ virtue. Suitable for KS1 and KS2."

A Story Like The Wind

Gill Lewis & Jo Weaver

Nominated by: Simon Fisher (@bookwormswales), teacher and book blogger at http://FamilyBookworms.wales  

 

"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.​"

 

When Jessie Came Across the Sea

Amy Hest

Nominated by: Jacqueline Harris (@phonicsandbooks), Education Consultant.

 

 "This is the story of an immigrant to the US; a young Jewish girl sailing from Eastern Europe and leaving everything she knows to start a new life. Beautiful illustrations make this a sophisticated picture book to be appreciated by older children too."

The Unforgotten Coat

Frank Cottrell Boyce

Nominated by: Laura Rutherford, Primary Teacher.

 

"A brilliant story about the realities of illegal immigration as experienced by two Mongolian brothers who arrive at a Bootle primary school in Liverpool."  

Tomorrow

Nadine Kadaan

Nominated by: Chitra Soundar (@csoundar), author of children's books including You're Safe With Me (available here) and Pattan's Pumpkin (available here).

 

"Nadine Kadaan brings to life the story of Yazan, a Syrian boy who is stuck inside the house – no school, no play and parents distracted by war...Tomorrow is a story from young Yazan’s viewpoint – what is important to a young boy? Meeting his friends, playing with his new bike that has a special bell that goes TINGALINGALING! He even misses school and his friends. This is a story for every child in every part of the world – because this is a tragedy of our contemporary world. Children who are growing up now in the UK or in any other continent should be given the opportunity to understand and empathise with their peers in war-torn cities and countries."

Leaf

Sandra Dieckmann

Nominated by: Ian Eagleton (@MrEagletonIan), Education consultant and teacher

 

 This colourful, beautifully illustrated tale is thoughtful and heart-warming. When a strange, white creature arrives in the wild woods, he is ignored by all the animals. He is a stranger and outsider and strangers and outsiders cannot be trusted. One day, the animals watch as the creature tries to fly back home, on wings made of leaves. But where is home? A moving story with an important message about how we treat others."

Gervelie's Journey: A Refugee Diary

Anthony Robinson, Annemarie Young & June Allan

Nominated by: Claire Pooley, Literacy Lead & Year 5/6 teacher

 

"Brilliant text telling the true story of a girl who was displaced from Congo, travelled to other countries in Africa, was further displaced again before finally seeking asylum in the UK. Told in the child's voice, using a combination of photographs, artwork and text. Allows Y4 upwards to study different points of a refugee's journey and to understand the reasons that asylum seekers arrive in Europe. Have used it as a base for 4 weeks of literacy during a topic on migration, children's rights and democracy."

Illegal

Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano

Nominated by: Roy James (@royjamesmoss), librarian and reader with KS2

 

"Aimed at year 6+, Illegal is a graphic novel about a boy named Ebo and his journey from Africa to Europe. A family orientated story, it shows the painful reality of families torn apart and the determination, and hope, of a reunion. I would love there to be more books about Ebo, as epic and dangerous as his journey is, only part of his struggle has been told, and like all refugees who make it to Europe... it really is only the beginning."

Here I am

Patti Kim & Sonia Sanchez

Nominated by: Chitra Soundar (@csoundar), author of children's books including You're Safe With Me (available here) and Pattan's Pumpkin (available here).

 

"In this wordless picture book Here I am, Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez bring the awe, the unfamiliarity of a new city to a young immigrant. As there are no words, children who are in similar situations (sadly more of them nowadays), can fill it in with their own unique stories. It's a great book to initiate questions and discussions, interpret feelings and importantly be empathetic - wear the shoes of an immigrant or a refugee as you walk through your own city - what do you see?"  

Who are Refugees and Migrants? What Makes People Leave their Homes? And Other Big Question

Michael Rosen & Annemarie Young

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), founder of booksfortopics.com

 

"A non-fiction text that explores refugees from a historical and global perspective. Suitable for KS2, this book includes case studies of different people's experiences of immigration as well as raising questions to stir further thinking and discussion around the topic."

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (KS3+)

Siobhan Curham

Nominated by: Angela K (@FljsLibrary), School Librarian

 

"A well told, honest story about the hidden (and often ignored) issues some young people in our society are dealing with every day. Heart breaking and heart warming in equal measures. A book that should be read by every teenager.

 

Stevie is a (friendless) young career, struggling with her mum’s depression, poverty and school life, who meets a young Syrian refugee - Hafiz. Hafiz has his own struggles, forced to flee Syria (alone - leaving his home, family and friends behind) to endure the arduous and life threatening journey to his Aunt and Uncle in the UK.

 

These two ordinary teenagers, forced together at school, find a friendship they were not expecting. Each has a passion - Stevie with her love of music and Hafiz with his love of football. Despite their differences and (until the end) not truly understanding the other's struggles, their friendship gives them each a glimpse of what happiness is."

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle

Victoria Williamson

Nominated by: Kirsty Crommie (@KCrommie), Primary Teacher and by Jayne Gould (@JayneG60), Primary School Librarian

 

Kirsty Says: "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. Over the course of the book the girls form an uneasy bond, neither of them feeling like they fit in. Their friendship develops through a shared love of running and of the discovery of a litter of fox cubs who they endeavour to look after. 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."

 

Jayne Says: "Twelve year old Caylin is lonely and, with her mother ill, struggling to cope at home but determined not to tell anyone. When she discovers an injured fox and her newborn cubs, she is determined to help them and fiercely guards her secret. Then Reema and her family, refugees from the war in Syria, move into the flat below Caylin’s. Reema also feels completely lost, trying to settle in a strange country whilst facing hostility. The girls strike up a wary friendship, cemented by their care for the fox family and a shared love of running. Tackling a range of issues with a light touch, this is an inspiring and moving debut novel recommend for readers of 9+."

A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope

Michael Foreman

Nominated by: Claire Pooley, Literacy Lead & Year 5/6 teacher

 

"Beautiful and thought-provoking picture book for upper KS2 looking at a modern conflict with displaced children on one side of a barrier contained by soldiers and uses stunning imagery and inference of a vine growing across a divide. The implication is that this is the Palestinian/Israeli conflict although it does not need to be used in this context. The children I have used this with were blown away by the imagery and loved looking at this book over and over again."

There's a Boy Just Like Me

Frasier Cox & Alison Brown

Nominated by: Kate Gieler (@Glebelove2read), School librarian

 

"A touching story of friendship about a boy and a refugee written by a 9 year old boy and superbly illustrated by Alison Brown."

Do You Speak Chocolate?

Cas Lester

Nominated by: Jo Clarke (@bookloverJo), school librarian and blogger at bookloverjo.wordpress.com.

 

 "When new girl Nadima arrives at school speaking very little English she struggles to make friends until Jas reaches out a hand of friendship by sharing her chocolate. Nadima’s experiences as a refugee are incredibly difficult for her friends to relate to, they can never truly understand what her life was like in Syria. This thoughtful story cleverly captures the fear and brutality she has experienced in a powerful and moving way."

The Colour of Home

Mary Hoffman & Karin Littlewood

Nominated by: Claire Pooley, Literacy Lead & Year 5/6 teacher

 

 "Beautiful picture book about a Somali boy arriving in a UK classroom as a refugee. It shows (very gently) the trauma he has experienced and the way in which he learns to overcome some of his fears and experiences through art and colour as a healing process. Has a beautiful message of hope."

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit

Judith Kerr

Nominated by: Kate Hitchings, Year 3/4 Teacher

 

"The marvellous Judith Kerr draws on her own experience as a wartime refugee to tell the story of nine year old Anna, forced to flee Germany with her family. Everything is told from Anna’s point of view, so children can empathise; many will recognise her dilemma over whether to pack the new toy dog or beloved pink rabbit. The child’s point of view gives the book power and poignancy, but Anna’s resilience and spirit make this a positive book, although the subject is so sad. It lives on in the memory and is, as Michael Morpurgo says, “life-enhancing!"

Stepping stones: A refugee family's journey

Margriet Ruurs, Nizar Ali Badr & Falah Raheem

Nominated by: Sue Miller (@SM_DCULIB), Education Librarian at Dublin City University

 

 "An emotional and gripping yet gentle read, this bilingual picturebook (Arabic/English) is suitable for all ages and reading abilities. Rama and her family’s story set in Syria will prompt plenty of discussion about home, family and the migrant experience. The simply amazing artwork, created using stones, expresses the emotions underpinning the refugee narrative and will pull creative responses from even the youngest reader. The biographical notes accompanying this collaborative work tell a story that is as wonderful as the book itself and enrich the whole. A must have book for every school or classroom library."

Running On The Roof Of The World

Jess Butterworth

Nominated by:  Nicki Cleveland (@MissNCleveland), HLTA, school librarian and blogger at missclevelandsreading.com

 

"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.

 

Tash lives in Tibet. She knows the rules. She knows what happens to people who don't follow them. The people taken by the Wujing don't ever return. Rule Number One: Don't run in front of a soldier. Rule Number Two: Never look at a soldier. Rule Number Three: Say as little as possible. Rule Number Four: Never draw attention to yourself. And, there are two words banned in Tibet, two words you must never say: Dalai Lama.

When a man sets himself on fire as a protest against the Chinese rule, soldiers flood her town. With their street being searched house by house, her father sends her on a dangerous mission. Only when she sees her father being held by the Wujing does she flee, and with the help of best friend Sam, begin rapid preparations for the gruelling journey across the Himalayas to ask for help from the Dalai Lama in India, never knowing who she can trust.

A gripping adventure, filled with danger, sorrow and hope. Tash shows true courage and determination against all the odds, and never forgets the compassion her parents taught her. 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.

Great for fans of Looking At The Stars, Welcome to Nowhere and The Bone Sparrow. In fact, 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."

The Island

Armin Greder

Nominated by:  Paul Harrison (@hackauthor), primary school reading mentor and children's author

 

"This stark older picture book is about an island where a stranger gets washed up onto the beach. The stranger isn’t like the islanders and this makes them fearful. A kindly fisherman persuades them to take the stranger in rather than return him to the sea; however the stranger is not welcome on the island. The islanders' fears turn to gossip and speculation and they form a mob that forcibly removes the stranger and punishes the fisherman. They then make sure that no one ever visits the island again. This is a moving, thoughtful book perfect for KS2 – an excellent discussion tool when looking at migration and refugees."

 

Front Desk

Kelly Yang

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), founder of booksfortopics.com

 

"A story about a Chinese girl called Mia living in America with her parents, this book explores the themes of immigration, prejudice, poverty, institutionalised racism and what it looks like to hold onto hope in turbulant times.  Mia's account of the difficulties her family faces as immigrants in modern day America is moving and powerful.  Recommended for upper KS2."

 

The Journey

Francesca Sanna

Nominated by: Kate Gieler (@Glebelove2read), School librarian

 

"There is so much detail in this beautiful book - each page stirs heart wrenching thoughts and sparks discussion. An extremely useful book to aid understanding and empathy of the refugee crisis."

There's Room for Everyone

Anahita Teymorian

Nominated by: Delaram Ghanimifard (@dellygh), children's book publisher.

 

"A child wonders, if there is room in the sky for all the stars and in the sea for all the fish and in the library for all the books, why people still fight over space? Surely if we are kinder, there is room for everyone in this beautiful world. There's Room for Everyone is a picture book that talks about conflicts and spaces that can be shared. It makes children think about these concepts compassionately, without thinking of a specific ethnicity as victims of war. The story is timeless, an can open discussions about acceptance and kindness in any context."

Charlie's Promise

Annemarie Allan

Nominated by: Barbara Henderson (@scattyscribbler), author of children's books including Punch (available here) and Wilderness Wars (available here).

 

"Annemarie Allan's poignant and uplifting WW2 tale of a runaway German refugee boy in Edinburgh proves that strangers need not be enemies."

 

King of the Sky

Nicola Davies & Laura Carlin

Nominated by: Simon Fisher (@bookwormswales), teacher and book blogger at http://FamilyBookworms.wales  

 

"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."

 

No Ballet Shoes in Syria

Catherine Bruton

Nominated by: @TheBookWhisper2, primary school librarian

 

"No Ballet Shoes in Syria is truly a beautiful and powerful story of love, loyalty and hope in the face of immense challenges. It's so inspiring that I've emailed a volunteer centre working with refugees to see if I can teach some family yoga classes there. It's not ballet, but it's fun and a bonding experience in a time of stress."

 

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