Picture Books, Chapter Books Showcasing Immigrants and Refugees

By Lauren Freedman

This week, I am sharing works of fiction, nine picture books with illustrations that deepen the reader’s empathy and understanding and four chapter books, all written in free verse. The free verse, I think, captures the shifting emotions and swift changes in locations and circumstances the characters are experiencing and helps the reader feel part of the story. Though fiction, all these stories are based on the real and often current experiences of refugees and immigrants from many parts of the world. For most of the books shared this week there are extension resources available on the internet.

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The Importance of Sharing Immigrant and Refugee Stories

By Lauren Freedman

December’s WOW Currents will focus on sharing immigrant and refugee stories of those children and their families who have been forced to leave the comfort of their homelands. Immigrants and refugees leave their known lives due to war, famine and genocide, among other hardships and disasters. The topic of immigration and refugees is of specific relevance in the current political climate throughout the United States. Sharing immigrant and refugee stories is particularly important in our schools, where bullying of students who are deemed to be “different” due to language, religion and skin color has increased.

sharing immigrant and refugee stories

Illustrations of characters from Playing War by Kathy Beckwith, illustrated by Lea Lyon.


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The Arizona Experience: Japanese Internment Camps in WWII

By Maya Patterson

As the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor approaches, we examine Arizona’s experience of World War II. This experience encompasses both the American Indian code talkers and two Japanese-American internment camps, the Gila River Internment Camp in Phoenix and the Colorado River Internment Camp in Poston. Newbery Award-winning author, Cynthia Kadohata, sets her novel, Weedflower, in Poston. The book connects the worlds of Japanese-Americans in the camps and American Indians, whose land the camps occupied.

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Exploring the Unbreakable Code

By Maya Patterson

Last week WOW Currents presented a list of American Indian literature and children’s books. This week, we take a closer look at The Unbreakable Code by Sara Hoagland Hunter and illustrated by Julia Miner. This picture book inspired the art from Tucson High Magnet School and Van Buskirk Elementary School in Worlds of Words’s “Code Making and Perspective Taking” exhibit, open from October 28 to December 15.

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Native American Veterans in Children’s Literature

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache Tribe

Worlds of Words’s current exhibit, “Code Making and Perspective Taking,” features stories of Native American code talkers, with art reflections from Tucson High Magnet School art students and fifth graders at Van Buskirk Elementary School. This week, with Veteran’s Day on Friday, November 11, I present a list of children’s and Native American literature that focuses on Native American veterans and their contribution to war efforts.

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Transnational Authors’ Cultural Backgrounds and Further Reading

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico,
and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

Throughout this past month we have looked at trends in transnational Asian children’s books. Further, we have discussed new transnational authors that expand cross-cultural peer relations in books and give voice to stories beyond traditional folklore. To wrap up the month of October, we present contemporary Korean and Japanese authors with books released in the U.S. These lists include authors that we have mentioned this month and some that we have not. Each name links to the author’s website, where you can find their books, the authors’ cultural backgrounds and other connections.

authors' cultural backgrounds

Katrina Goldsaito, left, is a new Japanese-American author who lived and wrote in Japan. Linda Sue Park, right, is the first Korean-American author to win the Newbery Award.

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New Transnational Authors of Children’s Books

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico,
and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

This week, we discuss new patterns in portraying additional U.S. Asian groups in books by new transnational authors. Like books about Korean and Japanese people and cultures, we observed new themes and perspectives that differ from previous Asian-American books in the ’90s and 2000s. We wondered how such new insights and experiences came to be available for young readers. One big change we’ve observed is the growth of new career authors and illustrators who have different stories to tell compared to previous decades’ stories.

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New Trends in Transnational Japanese Children’s Books

By Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District,
and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico

This week we discuss newly published children’s literature in the U.S. about Japanese and Japanese-American people in global contexts. Three patterns emerge when we consider the new trends in transnational Japanese children’s books: 1) little-known historical events between Japan and the U.S., 2) transnational children’s and teen’s journeys across time and space, and 3) children’s experiences in universal and cultural contexts.

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