Refugee Experiences in Literature

By Kathy Short, Updated April 2020

Children’s and Adolescent Literature on Refugee Experiences

Displacement Due to Violence and War

PICTUREBOOKS
Beckwith, Kathy (2005). Playing War. Ilus. Lea Lyon. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House. RF
Friends like to play war on the playground until a refugee child tells of losing his family in a real war.

Kaadan, Nadine (2018). Tomorrow. London: Lantana. RF
A young boy in Syria is forced to stay inside due to the war around him.

Lord, Michelle (2008). A Song for Cambodia. Illus. Shino Arihara. New York: Lee & Low. Bio
True story of a young boy and musician who survives the Khmer Rouge killing fields and work camp.

Robinson, Anthony (2009). Hamzat’s Journey: A Refugee Diary. Illus. June Allan. London: Frances Lincoln. NF
True story of a boy who lost his leg in a land mine during the Russia/Chechyna war and became a refugee.

Smith, Icy (2010). Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide. Illus. Sopaul Nhem. Manhattan Beach, CA: East West. HF
A boy separated from his family by the Khmer Rouge tries to survive when forced to work in the fields.

Vander Zee, Ruth (2008). Always with You. Illus. Ronald Himler. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. HF
A girl is orphaned when her village in Vietnam is bombed, comforted by her mother’s final words.

CHAPTER BOOKS
Anderson, Natalie (2019). Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday. New York: Putnam’s. RF
Forced to become a child solider, a 16-year-old Somali refugee confronts his painful past.

Bradman, Tony (2007). Give Me Shelter: Stories about Children Who Seek Asylum. London: Frances Lincoln. RF
Short stories of children who escaped war and persecution in their countries to seek asylum.

Brown, Don (2018). The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees. Boston: HMH. NF
Nonfiction graphic novel on the harsh realities of living in, and trying to escape, a war zone in Syria.

Coates, Jan (2010). A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk. Red Deer Press. HF
After an attack on his Sudanese village, an orphaned boy struggles to survive and escape the violence.

DeWoskian, Rachel (2019). Someday We Will Fly. Viking. YA, HF
A Jewish family is separated and flees Poland for Shanghai during WWII as conflict increases in Japanese-occupied China.

Ellis, Deborah (2009). Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees. Toronto, ON: Groundwood. NF
Interviews with 20 Iraqi refugee children about how the U.S. War on Terror affected their lives.

Holler, Sue F. (2019). Cold White Sun. Groundwood. YA, RF
A teen is forced to flee to Canada and survive by himself when his father is arrested in Ethiopia.

Laird, Elizabeth (1994). Kiss the Dust. New York: Puffin. HF
Tara and her Kurdish family must flee from Iraq into Iran as they face an uncertain future.

McCall, Guadalupe (2018). All the Stars Denied. Lee & Low. YA, HF
In 1931 during the Depression, the U.S. “repatriated” Latinx citizens, sending them back to Mexico. When Estrella organizes a protest, she is dumped over the border and must find her way back to her family.

McCormick, Patricia (2012). Never Fall Down. New York: HarperCollins. HF
True story of a boy in a Cambodian labor camp who is forced to kill and survives by playing an instrument.

Naidoo, Beverly (2004). Making It Home: Real-Life Stories from Children Forced to Flee. New York: Puffin. Global, NF
First-hand accounts of children forced to flee their war-torn homelands as refugees.

Perkins, Mitali (2010). Bamboo People. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. YA, RF
Two Burmese boys on opposite sides of a conflict, one a Karenni refugee and the other the son of a doctor, meet in the jungle and must learn to trust each other to survive.

Pinkney, Andrea (2014). The Red Pencil. Illus. Shane. Evans. New York: Little Brown. HF, NV
Amira’s Sudanese village is attacked and she flees to a refugee camp, expressing her dreams in drawings.

Senzai, N. H. (2018). Escape from Aleppo. New York: Simon & Schuster. RF
Nadia flees snipers in Aleppo during the civil war in Syria to meet her father at the Turkish border.

Sepetys, Ruta (2016). Salt to the Sea. New York: Penguin. HF
Refugees trying to escape at the end of WWII find themselves aboard a ship in danger of being torpedoed.

Uwiringiyimana, Sandra (2017). How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child. New York: HarperCollins. Bio
A memoir of a Congolese teen who survived a massacre to come to the U.S. as an activist and artist.

Villalobos, Juan (2019). The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. YA, NF
Collection of firsthand narratives stories from teens forced to flee from Central America to the U.S.

Williams, Michael (2009). Now is the Time for Running. Boston: Little Brown. HF
Deo goes on the run with his brother after his village is attacked in Zimbabwe, trying to get to South Africa.

Journeys of Hardship, Loss, and Hope

PICTUREBOOKS
Androse, Camille (2018). The Dress and the Girl. Illus. Julie Morstad. New York: Abrams. HF
A girl coming from Greece to the U.S. is separated from her favorite dress, which travels the world.

Applegate, Katherine (2007). Home of the Brave. New York: Feiwel. RF, NV
Kek, a young Sudanese refugee, is haunted by guilt and a sense of dislocation in snowy Minnesota.

Argueta, Jorge (2016). Somos como las nubes/We Are Like Clouds. Illus. Alfonso Ruano. Toronto: Groundwood. Poetry
Poems of the lives of children fleeing their homes in Central America to seek refuge in the U.S.

Buitrago, Jairo (2015). Two White Rabbits. Illus. Rafael Yockteng. Toronto: Groundwood. RF
A young girl and her father travel by foot through Mexico toward the border with the U.S.

Bunting, Eve (2001). Gleam and Glow. Illus. Peter Sylvada. San Diego: Harcourt. HF
After his home is destroyed by the war in Bosnia, a boy finds hope in the survival of two goldfish.

Davies, Nicola (2018). The Day the War Came. Illus. Rebecca Cobb. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. RF
A child forced to flee when war destroys her world and family is told there is no room in her new school.

De Arais, Patricia (2018). Marwan’s Journey. Illus. Laura Borras. Hong Kong: Miniedition. RF
A small sad boy joins a caravan of people to flee war in the Middle East, hoping one day to return.

Do, Anh & Suzanne (2012). The Little Refugee. Illus. Bruce Whatley. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Bio
Anh’s story of traveling to Australia as a child with his family as refugees from Vietnam.

Garay, Luis. (1997). The Long Road. Toronto, ON: Tundra. HF
Forced to flee a civil war in Nicaragua, Jose and his mother struggle to create a new life in Canada.

George, Angela (2016). Out. Illus. Owen Swain. Melbourne: Scholastic Australia. RF
A girl and her mother come by boat as asylum seekers from the Middle East to Australia.

Gouichoux, Rene (2019). Idriss and His Marble. Illus. Zau. StarBerry. RF
War forces a child and his mother to flee a country in Africa, as he clings to his lucky charm, a marble.

Guridi. Raul (2019). How to Put a Whale in a Suitcase. London: Tate. RF
A boy tries to squeeze a whale in his suitcase, a symbol of fitting his life in a suitcase before fleeing.

Greder, Armin (2018). Mediterranean. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. VN, RF
Migrants drown in a boat navigating treacherous seas, an indictment of society’s treatment of migrants.

Kuntz, Doug & Shrodes, Amy (2017). Lost and Found Cat. Illus. Sue Cornelison.  New York: Crown. RF
A family of refugees traveling from Iraq to Greece loses their treasured cat in the midst of their journey.

Lam, Thao (2020). The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story. Owlkids. VN, HF
A family escapes from Vietnam on a small boat, intertwined with the journey of an ant colony.

Lofthouse, Liz (2007). Ziba Came on a Boat. Illus. Robert Ingpen. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller. RF
A young girl and her family make a dangerous journey by boat from Iraq to Australia.

Mateo, Jose Manuel (2014). Migrant. Illus. Javier Pedro Martinez. New York: Abrams. Bilingual, RF
Accordion frieze of a Mexican boy’s journey to the U.S. with his family, in the style of a Mayan codex.

Miller, David (2005). Refugees. Melbourne, Vic., Australia: Lothian. VN
Two ducks have a difficult time finding a new place to live after their swamp is destroyed.

Milner, Kate (2017). My Name is Not Refugee. Edinburgh: The Bucket List. RF
A young boy and his mother must leave town and walk and walk to find a safe place.

Mills, Deborah & Ava, Alfredo (2018). La frontera: El viaje con papa/ My Journey with Papa. Illus. Claudia Navarro. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot. Bio
Alfredo and his father must cross the border on a difficult journey from Mexico to the U.S.

Orbeck-Nilsssen, Constance (2016). Why Am I Here? Illus. Akin Duzakin. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. RF
A young girl wonders what life would be like if she lived elsewhere or was a refugee.

Park, Frances & Park, Ginger (1998). My Freedom Trip. Illus. Debra Jenkins. Honesdale, Pa: Boyds Mill. HF
A child escapes from North Korea to join her father, leaving her mother behind. Based on mother’s life.

Robinson, Anthony & Young, Annemarie. (2008). Gervelie’s Journey: A Refugee Diary. Illus. June Allan. London: Frances Lincoln. NF
A Congolese girl and her father flee violence and war to the UK, living in uncertainty as refugees.

Robinson, Anthony & Young, Annemarie (2009). Mohammed’s Journey: A Refugee Diary. Illus. June Allan. London: Frances Lincoln. NF
A boy journeys from Iraq to the UK, after his father is taken away by soldiers.

Rodkey, Geoff (2019). We’re Not from Here. New York: Crown. Sci Fi
A boy and his family migrate to the planet Choom but must change the minds of the inhabitants who no longer welcome the “violent” humans who have already destroyed their own planet.

Ruurs, Margriet (2016). Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey. Illus. Nizar Ali Badr. Victoria, BC: Orca (Arabic/English). RF
A young girl and her family flee from the civil war in Syria toward Europe. Stone artwork by Syrian artist.

Sanna, Francesca (2016). The Journey. London: Flying Eye Books. RF
A mother and her children journey into the unknown with fear and hope from the Middle East to Europe.

Shulevitz, Uri (2008). How I Learned Geography. New York: Farrar. HF
A boy escapes hunger and misery by studying his father’s world map as a Polish refugee during WWII.

Skrypuch, Marsha. F. & Ho, Tuan (2016). Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival. Illus. Brian Deines. Toronto: Annick. NF
Tuan and his family survive bullets and a leaking boat in long days at sea, fleeing Vietnam.

Tan, Shaun (2007). The Arrival. New York: Scholastic. VN, Fantasy
A man flees his homeland and sets off for a new country and a new life in a wordless graphic novel.

Temple, Kate & Joi (2019). Room on Our Rock. Illus. Terri Baynton. Tulsa, OK: Kane/Miller/EDC. Fantasy
There are two ways to read this story, either with seals rejecting or accepting room for others on their rock.

Tonatiuh, Duncan (2013). Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote. New York: Abrams. Fantasy
Pancho Rabbit goes on a dangerous trek in search of his father in El Norte, guided by a coyote.

Watanabe, Issa (2020). Migrants. Gecko Press. VN Fantasy
A visually powerful narrative in which a group of animals are migrants are forced on a dangerous journey.

Wheatley, Nadia (2016). Flight. Illus. Armin Greder. Victoria, Australia: Windy Hollow. RF
A family travel at night on a donkey fleeing bombs and violence to the safety of a refugee camp.

Young, Rebecca (2017). Teacup. Illus. Matt Ottley. New York: Dial. Parable
A boy travels across the sea in a rowboat in search of a new home, with a teacup of dirt from his home.

CHAPTER BOOKS
Abawi, Atia (2018). A Land of Permanent Goodbyes. New York: Penguin. YA, RF
After their home is bombed in Syria, Tareq and his family seek refuge with a militant group and then escape to Greece. Resilience in the face of darkness.

Argueta, Jorge (2019). Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk. Illus. M. Monroy. NV, RF
A Salvadoran boy and his family join a caravan heading north, includes why they leave and their sadness at having to leave.

Bassoff, Leah (2018). Lost Girl Found. Toronto: Groundwood. YA, HF
Poni must run for her life due to the Sudanese war in a long and dangerous trek to a camp in Kenya.

Bondoux, Anne-Laure (2010). A Time of Miracles. Ember. Trans. from French. YA, HF
A boy with a mysterious past flees with a woman across Caucasus and Europe, facing many hardships.

Budhos, Marina (2006). Ask Me No Questions. New York: Simon & Schuster. YA, RF
A family from Bangladesh in New York City flee fearing deportation after 9-11 when their visas expire.

Colfer, Eoin (2018). Illegal. Ill. Giovanni Rigalo. Sourcebooks. RF, GN
Ebo is on a dangerous journey from Ghana across the desert and ocean to find his family and a better life.

Diaz, Alexandra (2016). The Only Road. New York: Simon & Schuster. RF
A boy makes a treacherous journey from Guatemala when his cousin is murdered by the drug cartel.
Sequel: The Crossroads (2019). Dealing with life as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S.

Engle, Margarita (2009). Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba. New York: Holt. YA, HF, NV
A refugee ship from Nazi Germany is given entry to Cuba as a refugee boy befriends a Cuban girl.

Gratz, Alan (2018). Refugee. New York: Scholastic. HF
Three refugee stories connect across time and place in harrowing journeys occurring in 1930s Germany, 1994 Cuba, and 2015 Syria.

Hiranandani, Veera (2018). The Night Diary. New York: Dial. HF
A girl forced to flee with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India keeps a diary.

Jaramillo, Ann (2008). La Linea. New York: Roaring Brook. YA, RF
Miguel and his sister leave their Mexican village in a dangerous journey across the desert and border.

Johnston, Tony (2019). Beast Rider: A Boy’s Journey Beyond the Border. New York: Abrams. YA, RF
A boy must travel on a dangerous trek from Mexico to Los Angeles to reunite with his brother.

Kullab, Samya & Roche, Jackie, & Freiheit, Mike (2017). Escape from Syria. Toronto: Firefly. YA, RF, GN
A family flees war-torn Syria, enduring refugee camps, ocean crossings, and swindlers to seek safety.

Lee, Julie (2020). Brother’s Keeper. Holiday House. HF
Two children flee from North Korea, trying to reach South Korea and safety during the Korean War.

Nazario, Sonia (2013). Enrique’s Journey. New York: Penguin. YA, NF
A teen’s dangerous journey from Honduras through Mexico to the U.S. in search of his mother.

Paterson, Katherine (2009). The Day of the Pelican. Sandpiper. HF
In Kosovo, Meli and her family flee the civil war, moving from one refugee camp to another.

Torres Sanchez, Jenny (2020). We Are Not from Here. Philomel. YA, RF
Three Guatemalan teens run from violence in a desperate journey through Mexico to reach the U.S. border.

Wilkes, Sybella  (1994). One Day We Had to Run! Refugee Children Tell Their Stories in Words and Paintings. Millbrook Press. NF
Collection of personal stories and paintings by refugee children from Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Williams, Mary (2005). Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Illus. R. Gregory Christie. New York: Lee & Low. NF
Orphaned by the Sudanese civil war, a boy leads other “lost” boys on a long walk to Ethiopia and Kenya.

Life in Refugee Camps and Detention Centers

PICTUREBOOKS
Danticat, Edwidge (2015). Mama’s Nightingale. Illus. Leslie Staub. New York: Dial. RF
Saya takes action for her mother who is in a US detention center as an undocumented Haitian immigrant.

De Anda, Diane (2019). Mango Moon. Illus. Sue Cornelison. Whitman. RF
A family faces many challenges when a father is taken to a detention center to face deportation to Mexico.

Del Rizzo, Suzanne (2017). My Beautiful Birds. New York: Pajama Press. RF
In a refugee camp, Sami worries about the safety of the pet pigeons he left behind in Syria.

Greder, Armin (2007). The Island. Crows Nest, Sydney: Allen & Unwin. RF
A stranger washed ashore on a remote island is put in a pen, rejected as different by the inhabitants.

Khan, Ruhksana (1998). The Roses in My Carpets<. Illus. Ronald Himler. New York: Holiday House. RF
An Afghan boy struggles with life in a refugee camp, finding comfort from bombs in weaving carpets.

Laínez, Rena Colato (2016). Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre. Illus. Laura Lacamara. New York: Children’s Book Press. RF
A young girl misunderstands the word alien on her Latinx mother’s immigration card.

Leblanc, Andre (2009). The Red Piano. Illus. Barroux. Wilkins Barroux. HF
Sent to a labor camp during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a girl risks everything to play the piano.

Marsden, John (2008). Home and Away. Illus. Matt Ottley. Melbourne: Hachette. RF
An imagined devastating scenario in which a middle-class Australian family must flee to a refugee camp.

Meddour, Wendy (2019). Lubna and Pebble. Illus. Daniel Egnéus. New York: Dial. RF
Lubna’s best friend in a refugee camp is a pebble who brings her comfort, but someone else needs it.

Milway, Katie Smith (2017). The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World. Toronto: Kids Can. NF
When gangs become a problem in a refugee camp in Tanzania, a coach organizes soccer games.

Shea, Pegi D. (1995). The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee’s Story. Illus. Anita Riggio. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills. HF
A Hmong girl in a Thai refugee camp finds the story within herself to create her own pa’ndau story cloth.

Williams, Karen & Mohammed, Khadra (2007). Four Feet, Two Sandals. Illus. Doug Chayka. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. RF
Two Afghan girls in a refugee camp in Pakistan share a precious pair of sandals brought by relief workers.

CHAPTER BOOKS
Ahmed, Samira (2019). Internment. Little Brown. YA, Fantasy
A dystopia in which Muslim Americans are forced into internment camps and organize against silence.

Argueta, Jorge (2019). Jimena Perez puede volar/Jimena Perez Can Fly. Illus. F. Vandenbroeck. Pinata. NV, RF
A mother and child forced to flee El Salvador are separated at the U.S. border and imprisoned.

Fraillon, Zana (2016). The Bone Sparrow. New York: Hyperion. RF
Subhi, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, has spent his entire life in a refugee camp in Australia. His contained world expands when a girl arrives on the other side of the fence.

Jamieson, Victoria & Mohamed, Omar (2020). When Stars are Scattered. New York: Dial. Bio, GN
Omar, a Somali refugee, who has spent most of his life in a refugee camp in Kenya, gets an opportunity for an education, but that would mean a separation from his nonverbal brother.

Whitman, Sylvia (2013). The Milk of Birds. New York: Atheneum. YA, RF
Two teens are paired as pen pals, one in a Sudanese refugee camp and the other in Richmond, Virginia.

A Sense of Belonging through Relationships and Language

PICTUREBOOKS
Claire, Celine (2016). Shelter. Illus. Quin Leng. Toronto: Kids Can. Fantasy
During a storm, the animals turn away two strangers, who later come to the rescue for the fox family.

Elya, Susan M. (2002). Home at Last. Illus. Felipe Davalos. New York Lee & Low. RF
Ana helps her mother adjust to their move from Mexico to the U.S. and helps her learn English.

Farish, Terry (2016). Joseph’s Big Ride. Illus. Ken Daley. Toronto: Annick. RF
A refugee from Kenya in Canada is determined to ride a bicycle, leading to an unexpected friendship.

Garland, S. (2012). Azzi in Between. London: Frances Lincoln. RF, GN
Azzi leaves her country due to war and must learn a new language and start a new school in the UK.

Gay, Marie-Louise (2018). Mustafa. Toronto: Groundwood. RF
A Syrian refugee, still feeling trauma from the war, visits a park near his new home, finding a new friend.

Hollingsworth, Alyssa (2018). The Eleventh Trade. New York: Roaring Brook. RF
Sami must recover a treasured Afghan instrument stolen from his grandfather, but has no money and so begins trading to get it back – a tale about living with fear, being a friend, and finding a new home.

James, Helen & Loh, Virginia (2013). Paper Son. Illus. Wilson Ong. Traverse, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. HF
An orphan reluctantly leaves China on a sea voyage to undergo an examination at Angel Island.

Khalil, Aya (2020) The Arabic Quilt. Illus. Anait Semirdzhyan. Tilbury House. RF
An Arabic quilt connects Kanzi to her old home in Cairo and to acceptance of her language in school.

Kim, Patti (2014). Here I Am. Illus. Sonia Sanchez. North Mankato, MN: Capstone. RF, VN
Pictures tell the story of new immigrants to the U.S. who struggle with the challenges of starting a new life.

Leung, Julie (2019). Paper Song: Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist. Illus. Chris Sasaki. New York: Schwarz. Bio
Biography of a Chinese immigrant whose love of art led him to become an animator for Disney.

Levine, Ellen (1989). I Hate English! Illus. Steve Björkman New York: Scholastic. RF
Mei Mei moved from Hong Kong to New York, finding it difficult to adjust to school and to learn English.

O’Brien, Anne. S. (2015). I’m New Here. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. RF
Three children from Somalia, Guatemala, and Korea struggle to adjust to their new home and school.
(2018). Someone New. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. RF
Companion book from the perspective of the classmates learning to connect with the newcomers in school.

Sanna, Francesca (2018). Me and My Fear. London: Flying Eye Books. RF
When a young girl moves countries and starts at a new school, her Fear tells her to be alone and afraid.

CHAPTER BOOKS
Boyce, Frank C. (2011). The Unforgotten Coat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. RF
Julie helps two Mongolian brothers trying to survive in their new UK context as they hide from authorities.

Hollingsworth, Alyssa (2018). The Eleventh Trade. New York: Roaring Brook. RF
Sami must recover a treasured Afghan instrument stolen from his grandfather but has no money and so begins trading to get it back–a tale about living with fear, being a friend, and finding a new home.

Marsh, Katherine (2018). Nowhere Boy. New York: Roaring Brook. RF
A Syrian refugee boy and an American boy have their lives intertwine in Belgium when terrorist attacks lead to suspicions of Muslims and refugees.

Ryan, Pam Muñoz (2000). Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic. HF
Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth in Mexico to become migrant workers.

Senzai, N. H. (2010). Shooting Kabul. New York: Simon & Schuster. RF
Escaping from Afghanistan, Fadi’s family heads to the U.S., accidentally leaving his little sister in a camp.

Home as Two Places in the Heart

PICTUREBOOKS
Foreman, Michael (2015). The Seeds of Friendship. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. RF
An immigrant boy brings the green warmth of Africa into his new cold urban world in the UK.

Kobald, Irena (2014). My Two Blankets. Illus. Freya Blackwood. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. RF
A Sudanese girl clings to an old blanket when she is sad, but a friendship helps her create a new blanket.

Morales, Yuyi (2018). Dreamers. New York: Holiday House. Memoir
A memoir on the power of story and the gifts that migrants bring with them when they leave their homes.

Rosenberg, Liz (1999). The Silence in the Mountains. Illus. Chris Soentpiet. New York: Orchard. RF
When a refugee boy is homesick for the sounds of Lebanon, his grandfather helps him hear the silence.

Say, Allen (2013). Grandfather’s Journey. New York: Houghton Mifflin. HF
A grandson connects with his grandfather’s feelings of being torn by a love for two countries.

Tran, Truong (2003). Going Home, Coming a Home. Illus. Ann Phing. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press. RF
A young girl visits her grandmother in Vietnam, learning she can call two places home. English/Vietnamese

CHAPTER BOOKS
Agosin, Marjorie (2014). I Lived on Butterfly Hill. New York: Atheneum. HF
Pinochet’s takeover of Chile sends an unwilling Celeste to the U.S. and her parents into hiding.

Lai, Thanhha (2011). Inside Out & Back Again. New York: HarperCollins. HF, NV
The story of a Vietnamese girl and her family who are settled as refugees in Alabama in 1975.

Park, Linda Sue (2010). A Long Walk to Water. New York: Clarion. HF, RF
Two stories in alternating sections connecting a “lost boy” of the Sudan in 1985 with a girl in the Sudan in 2008 who has to walk long distances for water.

Robert, Na’ima bint (2008). From Somalia with Love. London: Frances Lincoln. YA RF
A Somalian teen’s life in London is turned upside down when her father returns from Mogadishu after 12 years, expecting the family to live by his rules.

Thor, Annika (2009). A Faraway Island. New York: Yearling. HF
Two Jewish sisters leave Austria during WWII and find refuge in Sweden with new families.

The Power of Story

PICTUREBOOKS
Cha, Dia (1996). Dia’s Story Cloth. Illus. Chue Cha. New York: Lee & Low. HF
A story cloth chronicles the journey of a Hmong family from Laos to a refugee camp to the US

Garland, Sherry (1993). The Lotus Seed. Illus. Tatsuro Kiuchi. San Diego: Harcourt. RF
A lotus seed holds the memory and the story of a Vietnamese refugee family’s homeland.

Hoffman, Mary (1992). The Color of Home. Illus. Karen Littlewood. London: Frances Lincoln. RF
A struggling refugee boy shares his story through drawing a picture of his old home in Somalia.

Kurtz, Jane (2000). Faraway Home. Illus. E. B. Lewis. San Diego, CA: Gulliver Books. RF
Desta’s father needs to return to his Ethiopian homeland and shares his memories with his daughter.

Maclear, Kyo (2020). Story Boat. Illus. Rashin Kheiriyeh. Toronto: Tundra. RF
Children traveling with a group of refugees use their imaginations and story to create hope.

Nuño, Fran (2016). The Map of Good Memories. Illus. Zuzanna Celej. Madrid: Cuento de Luz. RF
Zoe draws a map of good memories of the city she needs to flee with her family during a war.

Shea, Pegi D. (1995). The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee’s Story. Illus. Anita Riggio. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills. HF
A Hmong girl in a Thai refugee camp finds the story within herself to create her own pa’ndau story cloth.

Youme. (2010). Mali Under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Hope. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press. Bio
An artist carries her memories within her as she escapes the war in Laos and starts a new life.

CHAPTER BOOKS
Hosseini, Khaled (2018). Sea Prayer. Riverhead. RF
A short, illustrated book in the form of a letter from father to son on the eve of a dangerous sea crossing.

Krishnaswami, Uma (2003). Chachaji’s Cup. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press. HF
A boy learns about his family history and the Partition of India from his great uncle through stories told over a beloved old teacup

Lewis, Gill (2018). A Story Like the Wind. Illus. Jo Weaver. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Fable
Refugees huddle in a rubber dinghy as one uses his violin to weave their stories together to give hope.

Ryan, Pam Muñoz (2020). Mananaland. Scholastic. Fantasy
In a fictional Latin American country, Max realizes that the stories his grandfather tells him about a gatekeeper who guides travelers on a journey into tomorrow are related to his mother’s disappearance.

Immigration and Refugees Across Time and Place in Nonfiction

PICTUREBOOKS
Coy, John (2016). Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land. Wing Young Huie. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda. NF
Photos explore the experiences of immigrants, celebrating the diversity and hope they bring to the U.S.

Gravel, Elise (2019). What Is a Refugee? New York: Schwartz & Wade. NF
A simple and graphic introduction to the term refugee for young children.

McCarney, Rosemary (2017). Where Will I Live? Toronto, ON: Second Story Press. NF
Photos of refugee children from around the world forced to flee due to war, hunger, and natural disasters.

Rosen, Michael (2016) Who Are Refugees and Migrants? What Makes People Leave Their Homes? London: Wayland. NF
Explores the history of refugees around the world and the effects of never-ending war and conflict.

Roberts, Ceri (2017). Children in Our World: Refugees and Migrants. Illus. Hanane Kai. London: Wayland. NF
Discusses what it means to be a refugee and why would people leave their homes.

CHAPTER BOOKS
Bausum, Ann (2009). Denied Detained Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration. Washington, DC: National Geographic. History
Discusses cases from across the history of immigration of denying or deporting immigrants in the U.S.

Caplan, Bryan (2019). Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. Illus. Zach Weinersmith. New York: First Second. NF, GN
Makes a case for unrestricted immigration in a fact-filled graphic nonfiction.
Candlewick Studios (2019). Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders. Candlewick.
Fifty artists from around the world created postcard images of birds along with messages of hope.

Leatherdale, Mary Beth (2017). Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees. Illus. E. Shakespeare. Toronto: Annick. History
Five true stories about young people across history who lived through harrowing boat journeys as refugees.

Nguyen, V. T. (2018). The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. New York: Abrams. NF, Essays
Essays by prominent refugee writers from around the world to explore and illuminate their experiences.

Osborne, Linda B. (2018). This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration. New York: Abrams. NF
Explores government policy and popular responses to immigrant groups between 1800-1965 in the U.S.

Thorpe, Helen (2018). The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom. New York: Scribner. YA, NF
Traces the lives of 22 immigrant teens in Denver as they adapt to American culture and a new language.

Vecchione, Patricia & Raymond, Alyssa (2019). Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. New York: Seven Stories. YA, Poetry
Collection of poems by poets from around the world on the many issues facing teen refugees.

Wallace, Sandra & Rich (2018). First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great. Illus. A. Nowick. Boston: Little Brown. Bio
Celebrate the genius, diversity, and grit of immigrants and refugees to the U.S.

Yousafzai, Malala (2019). We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls around the World. Little Brown. Bio
Survival stories of female refugees from around the world, including her own story.

Related Text Sets
Significance of Names

Choi, Yangsook (2001). The Name Jar. New York: Knopf. RF
Unhei debates whether to change her name to an American one when she moves from Korea.

Kiuchukov, Khristo (2004). My Name was Hussein. Illus. Allan Eitzen. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mill. RF
When an army invades his village in Bulgaria, a Muslim boy and his family must take Christian names

Lainez Colato, René (2009). René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos. Illus. Fabiola G. Ramirez. Houston, TX: Arte Publico. RF
A boy from El Salvador helps his classmates understand a Latinx cultural tradition with names.

Martinez-Neal, Juana. (2018). Alma and How She Got Her Name. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. RF
When Alma complains about her long name, her father tells the story of her names and Peruvian heritage.

Ogburn, Jacqueline (2011). Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the World. Illus. Chris Raschka. New York: Houghton Mifflin. NF
Shares terms of endearments parents use to express love to children in fourteen different languages.

Recorvits, Helen (2003). My Name is Yoon. Illus. Gabriela Swiatkowska. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. RF
Yoon dislikes how her name is written in English, compared to the beauty of her name in Korean.

Thompkins-Bigelow, Jamilah. (2020). Your Name is a Song. Illus. Louisa Uribe. Innovation Press. RF
A young girl does not want to return to school because no one can pronounce her name.

Williams, Karen & Mohammed, Khadra (2009). My Name is Sangoel. Illus. Catherine Stock. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. RF
Sangoel is proud of his Sudanese name but no one in his school in the U.S. can correctly pronounce it.

Walls and Borders

Agee, Jon (2018). The Wall in the Middle of the Book. New York: Dial. Fantasy
A foolish knight is certain that his side of the wall is the safe side; wall is in the gutter of the book.

Basil, Krystia (2020). A Sky without Lines. Illus. Laura Borrās. Hong Kong: Miniedition. RF
Arturo’s family is separated by a line, so he dreams of flying through the open sky, free of barriers.

Cole, Tom C. (2014). Wall. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. HF
A boy and his family try to reunite with his father caught on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

Dumont, Jean-Louise (2020). The Chickens Build a Wall. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Trans French. Fantasy.
The chickens build a huge wall to keep out the “prickly invaders,” actually a friendly hedgehog.

Foreman, Michael (2008). A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope. Somerville, MA: Candewick. RF
A war-ravaged country is separated by a wire fence from the streams and hills of peace and privilege.

Galbraith, Bree (2020). Usha and the Stolen Sun. Illus. Josee Bisaillon. Owlkids. Fantasy
A South Asian child finds a way to take down the wall the keeps the sun from reaching her village.

Giuliano, Ferri (2016). Brick by Brick. Hong Kong: Miniedition. Fantasy
Animals take down the wall that divides them to construct a bridge that joins their islands.

Hau, Kerstin (2019). The Dark and the Light. Illus. Julie Volk. NorthSouth Books. Trans. German. Fantasy
Two lonely creatures live in lands of either darkness or light until one day they meet at the border.

Hernandez, Glenn (2020). Mr. Pig’s Big Wall. New York: Random. Fantasy
Pig builds a wall to keep Tortoise from bothering him, but traps himself inside, keeping out the sun.

Knight, Margy (2014). Talking Walls: Discover Your World. Illus. Anne S. O’Brien. Tilbury House. NF
A description of walls around the world, from the Great Wall of China to the Berlin Wall.

Lionni, Leo (2014). Tillie and the Wall. Dragonfly Books. Fable
Tillie is curious about the wall that has always been in their world and what lies on the other side.

Macri, Giancarto (2019). The Wall: A Timeless Tale. Illus. Sacco. Happy Fox. Translated Italy. Fantasy
A king banishes anyone who differs from him and builds a wall to keep them out. Cutouts create a wall.

Martins, Isabel Minhos (2016). Don’t Cross the Line! Illus. Bernardo Carvalho. NZ: Gecko. Trans. Portuguese. Fantasy
A guard follows orders without question, not allowing anyone to cross the line, then a ball bounces across.

Perkins, Mitali (2019). Between Us & Abuela: A Family Story from the Border. Illus. Sara Palacios. New York: Farrar. RF
Maria and her family search for a way to send their gifts across the border wall to their Abuela in Mexico.

Siers, Sophie (2019). Dear Mr. President. Illus. Anne Villeneuve. Toronto: Owlkids. RF
Sam decides to build a wall in his bedroom to keep out his brother after hearing about the border wall.

Sis, Peter (2007). The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. New York: Farrar. Autobiography
Sis describes life in Czechoslovakia under Soviet rule, the loss of freedom, and his escape to the West.

White, Dianne (2020). Sometimes a Wall…. Illus. Barroux. Owlkids. RF
Children on a playground build walls that exclude and walls that invite others into play.

Woodson, Jacqueline (2001). The Other Side. Illus. E. B. Lewis. New York: Putnam’s. HF
A fence divides two neighborhoods based on race, during the time of segregation in the U.S.

Yi, Ok-pae (2019). When Spring Comes to the DMZ. Plough. Trans. Korean. RF
Grandfather yearly visits the demilitarized zone, a barrier separating families in North and South Korea.

Key

Bio = Biography
GN = Graphic Novel
HF = Historical Fiction
NF = Nonfiction
NV = Novel in Verse
RF = Realistic Fiction
VN = Visual Narrative (wordless book)
YA = Young Adult

2 thoughts on “Refugee Experiences in Literature

  1. Crystal Campos says:

    Hello, I heard from a colleague that books about the Central American caravans traveling north to the United States are available. Since I work with a large population of Hispanic families around the border between the U.S. and Mexico, it would nice to find those resources. I feel there’s a deep need for my students to learn about these situations that are very close to home.

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