19 Children's Books About Immigrants and Refugees
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19 Children’s Books About Immigrants and Refugees

Inspiring stories about immigrant and refugee experiences can help young readers understand what it might be like to move to a new country and start a new life. The fiction and nonfiction books listed below include many of the difficult obstacles immigrants and refugees face when moving to a new place. Themes of diversity, hardship, acceptance, empathy, perseverance are sure to make a deep emotional impact on readers of all ages.  

 

The Name Jar  By Yangsook Choi

Unhei has just arrived in America from Korea.  During the bus trip on her first day of school, other students make fun of her Korean name.  After thinking about it, Unhei decides to take an American name.  Trying to help, the students in her class fill a jar with ideas for Unhei’s new name.  As the story progresses, several events happen that encourage Unhei to take pride in her differences and keep her Korean name. She even makes a new friend!

Ages 3 & Up, AD590L

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Carmela Full of Wishes  By Matt De La Pena

When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her first wish has already come true: She is old enough to run errands in town with her brother! As Carmela and her brother embark on their day, they experience the sights and sounds of their busy neighborhood. When Carmela picks a lone dandelion growing in the concrete, she realizes she can find hope in the most unexpected places. 

Ages 4 & Up, 630L

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Dreamers  By Yuyi Morales

When Yuyi moves to a new country, she can’t help but dream of a brighter future. Her life changes forever when she finds the public library. Yuyi spends hours connecting with books, examining vivid illustrations, and thinking deeply about the power of words. More importantly, Yuyi realized her life’s purpose,  she could tell stories too.

Ages 4 & Up, AD480L

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This Is Me  By Jamie Lee Curtis

This is Me is an interactive book about moving to a new country. The story begins with a teacher telling her class about her great grandmother who came from a faraway land. As the teacher continues with the story, students learn that packing for a big move isn’t easy. They are asked to consider what they would pack if they had to move away. What would fit in one small case? The rhythmic story encourages readers of all ages to imagine what it would be like to move someplace different.

Ages 4 & Up

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Marwan’s Journey  By Patricia De Arias

Marwan is a young boy who is forced to leave his home. The only thing that keeps Marwan’s spirits high on his journey across deserts and seas are the memories of his homeland and family.  Although Marwan settles in another country and speaks another language, he is hopeful that he will one day return to the land he once called home. 

Ages 5 & Up, AD520L

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Her Right Foot  By Dave Eggers

Her Right Foot is a nonfiction children’s book about the history and significance of the State of Liberty. Told in a quick-witted tone, the story follows the Statue of Liberty from it’s conception as an idea in France to its final resting place in the New York Harbor. The final takeaway is explained in the symbolism of Lady Liberty’s right foot.

Ages 5 & Up, NC800L    

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The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story  By Aya Khalil

When Kanzi moves with her family  from Egypt to America, she wants very much to fit in. On the first day of school, Kanzi is ashamed of her Egyptian-style sandwich and her mother’s hijab. As the story progresses, the differences Kanzi believes set her apart from her classmates actually work to help her make new friends. 

Ages 6 & Up, 710L

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La Frontera: My Journey with Papa  By Deborah Mills

Written in English and Spanish, this inspiring bilingual book tells the true story of Alfredo Alva’s  journey from Mexico to Texas in the 1980s.  Readers join young Alfredo as he leaves everything he knows to make the journey to the United States with his father.  The book also includes several pages of illustrated text for children to learn more about immigration. 

Ages 6 & Up, 730L

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The Matchbox Diary  By Paul Fleischmen

The Matchbox Diary is a heartfelt story that uses symbolism to describe the highs and lows of the immigrant experience. When a little girl visits her grandfather’s antique shop, she learns about his collection of matchboxes. Inside each small box, is a memento from her grandfather’s journey to a new country. 

Ages 6 & Up, AD570L

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The Day War Came  By Nicola Davies

The Day War Came is a poetic story about a young girl whose life is completely engulfed by war. The heartbreaking story follows the narrator as she is forced to flee her war-torn homeland as a refugee. Inspired by true events, this book shows the power of kindness and the hope it can bring in the wake of the devastation of war.

Ages 6 & Up

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Esperanza Rising  By Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising is an award-winning novel based on the lives of migrant farmworkers in the 1930s.  The story begins when a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and her mother to flee all they’ve ever known in Mexico. After settling in a Mexican farm labor camp in California, Esperanza’s life becomes filled with struggle. Esperanza must find a way to keep hope alive and work for a new future.

Ages 8 & Up, 750L

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Escape from Aleppo  By N.H. Senzai

Inspired by true events, this young adult novel sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis. As civil war erupts across Syria and bombs fall on the city of Aleppo, 14-year-old Nadia and her family decide to flee. Heading for Turkey, Nadia becomes separated from the others when a bomb explodes. Injured and alone, Nadia is faced with death and destruction at every turn. In the midst of so much danger, Nadia’s journey to safety also includes heavy doses of courage, love, and kindness.  

Ages 8 & Up, 880L

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Pie in the Sky  By Remy Lai

Pie in the Sky is a graphic novel about an eleven-year-old boy who moves thousands of miles away from his home. When faced with a new language, new school, and new classmates, he feels as though he was dropped on planet Mars. His one connection to home is his love for baking cakes. This laugh-out-loud story mixes humor, loss, and love in a way that will resonate with most middle-grade readers. 

Ages 8 & Up, 720L

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First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great  By Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

This nonfiction history book celebrates the courage of  immigrants and refugees who have made America a stronger place. The men and women featured in this book represent nations from all over the world. The book is divided into 36 short passages, each focusing on a different influential immigrant or refugee. Each passage features an illustration, inspiring quote, brief biography, and several quick facts.

Ages 8 & Up

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Refugee  By Alan Gratz

This New York Times bestseller follows three young kids on their harrowing search for refuge. Forced to leave everything behind, Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud face unimaginable dangers, including drownings, bombings, and betrayals. Although the story of each child is different, shocking connections are revealed in the final pages. 

Ages 9 & Up, 800L

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Home of the Brave: An American History Book for Kids: 15 Immigrants Who Shaped US History  By Brooke Khan

Home of the Brave dives deep into the lives of 15 immigrants who helped shape US history. Readers will learn from the immigrant experiences of Levi Strauss, I.M. Pei, Madeleine Albright, and many more! Each biography includes remarkable facts about the lives of these exceptional Americans. Chapters also include ideas for further learning and educational activities!

Ages 9 & up

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The Clay Marble  By Minfong Ho

In this compact novel, twelve-year-old Dara and her family are forced to flee war-torn Cambodia. The story follows their journey to a refugee camp near the Thailand border where Dara befriends another young refugee. Although the girls form a deep friendship, they cannot escape the destruction of war. The quick-paced plot, rich symbolism and meaningful themes make this a great choice for young readers.

Ages 10 & Up, 860L

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A Long Walk to Water  By Linda Sue Park

This New York Times Best Seller is based on the true story of two young people living in Sudan. Nya and Salva are two Sudanese children who overcome extreme dangers to improve their lives and the lives of others. Told in the form of a dual narrative, this is truly an inspiring story of hope, perseverance, and courage.

Ages 10 & Up, 720L

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Enchanted Air  By Margarita Engle

Written in the form of a narrative poem, Margarita Engle shares the struggles she faced growing up in two distinct cultures.  Margarita is deeply connected to her familial roots in Cuba, but she also feels strongly tied to her life in the United States. Longing to fit in, Engle uses vivid imagery and rich language to describe how it feels to be different than everyone else.  In the midst of searching for a sense of belonging, Margarita learns to appreciate her differences. Ideal for young readers who feel as though they are always on the outside looking in, this memoir is a beautifully written work of art. 

Ages 12 & Up, 1120L

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Many of the characters in the books listed above will work extremely well for teaching students about character traits. Click here to download a free printable PDF of 100 character traits.

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Immigrant and Refugee Books for Kids
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