I hope fall is in the air wherever you are! We are so excited for all things pumpkin and the crisp fall air.
I am so excited to share some of my favorite refugee stories for kids. There are so many great books out there that discuss the experiences of children who are from all over the world. While many of these are about refugee or immigrant children, some are about children with traditions or heritage from all parts of the world.
I do not claim that this list holds all the worthwhile immigrant and refugee stories for kids. It’s simply a place to start. Included are several picture books, novels, books in verse and a graphic novel. I love the variety of mediums that discuss these wonderful and important stories. I hope you enjoy this list!
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali // I love the beautiful illustrations and gorgeous imagery of this picture book. It’s the story of a younger sister watching her sister wear hijab for the first time. A beautiful story! Fun fact — the author is actually an Olympic medalist!
Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour // This picture book is so sweet! It tells the story of a father and daughter in a refugee camp. We see this difficult situation from the eyes of the daughter, Lubna, as she finds friendship in unlikely places.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho // A good friend of mine recommended this darling picture book about a girl who notices physical differences between herself and those around her. It’s a beautiful celebration of family and of Asian heritage.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan // This was the first novel I read with my sister for our buddy summer reading. It was my first time and I absolutely loved this book! It tells the story of Esperanza, a wealthy girl in Mexico who must flee to America following the tragic death of her father. With her mother and friends, she must navigate the hard life of the workers on California fruit farms. A beautiful story of hope!
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhai Lai // I love this novel in verse about Hà — a girl who flees Vietnam with her family during the Vietnam War. The imagery is amazing and the emotions are raw and beautiful. It’s a powerful story about being a refugee in America and the importance of family.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford // It’s been several years since I read this book, but it has left a powerful impression on me. Henry is a Chinese American boy living in Seattle during WWII. He befriends a Japanese American girl named Kieko. But when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Kieko and her family are forced to leave their home and settle in a Japanese Internment Camp. Can their friendship survive the war? I was fascinated by this look at prejudices during WWII including between Chinese and Japanese Americans. This is a beautiful and tragic story that teaches the importance of friendship, kindness, and empathy.
Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata // I enjoyed this Newbery winning novel about Katie and her family. Her sister Lynn teaches her about things that are ‘kira-kira’ which means glittering, shining. When Lynn gets sick, Katie must learn to see the kira-kira herself and hold her family together. The experiences of Katie’s family in the American South are both difficult and hopeful. A well deserved winner!
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina // This is one of my favorite Newbery winners that I have read. Merci lives with her family in Florida where they settled after immigrating from Cuba. It’s a big year for Merci as she starts attending a private school on scholarship. Her best friend is her grandfather, Lolo. But when Lolo begins showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, everything in Merci’s life begins to shift and she isn’t sure where to turn. I loved this story and the ways Merci and her family band together in the face of difficult circumstances.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga // That same good friend recommended this book to me recently! It is fantastic! A novel told in verse, this story follows the experiences of Jude as she and her mother come to America from Syria as refugees. I loved the positive messages in this book that show how Jude overcomes many trials and is able to make new friends in America. Such a beautiful and powerful story about the importance of heritage, tradition, and family. I learned so much as well! I can’t wait to share my review!
When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed // One of my absolute favorite books that I have read in recent memory. This graphic novel tells Omar’s story as a refugee in a camp in Kenya with his younger brother who doesn’t speak. I loved the medium and the powerful message of hope and family despite the many challenges faced by these refugees. This book changed my life; I can’t wait to share more in my review!
Front Desk by Kelly Yang // This was one of the first immigrant inspired middle grade novels that I picked up. Mia and her parents immigrate to America for a better life. They get a job at a hotel but it isn’t what they expect. Mia must use all her talents and lots of hard work to save her family and help immigrants like herself. An engaging story showcasing both the good and bad of being an immigrant in America.
*Not technically refugee or immigrant stories, these two novels celebrate Korean and Chinese folklore and heritage in beautiful ways so they are worth mentioning!
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller // The 2021 Newbery Medal winner, this story follows Lily’s journey as she attempts to heal her aging Halmoni (grandmother) by making a deal with a tiger from one of Halmoni’s stories. The Korean folklore is absolutely exquisite and I loved the storytelling as well.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin // I love the way this book weaves multiple stories together. Minli is a young girl living with her parents in struggling circumstances. She goes on a journey to meet the man in the moon and ask for his help. Along the way, she encounters characters and creatures right out of Chinese folklore. I loved the stories within the story and the beautiful illustrations too!
What immigrant and refugee stories would you recommend for kids?