Refugee Week book list
The annual Refugee Week is taking place this year from 18 – 24 June. It provides a great opportunity for children to think more deeply about the plight of refugees and the experiences of those from other cultures. We’ve put together a book list of lots of brilliant titles about refugees for all ages – why not see if you can pick up some of these from your local library?
Fiction for younger readers
Shaun Tan (Hodder Children’s Books)
This moving tale follows the lives of one family torn apart by circumstances. A man leaves behind his wife and daughter to board a ship to cross the ocean. It is the most painful but most important journey of his life, as he leaves home to build a better future for his family. Shaun Tan tells the tale purely through beautiful images, helping the reader to become immersed in the man’s emotions and the challenges faced by immigrants across the world.
My Name is not Refugee
Kate Milner (The Bucket List)
A young boy is about to go on a long journey with his mother. She explains to him that they will leave their home and will have to say goodbye to their family and friends, and tells him that it will be exciting but also frightening and that they will have to walk for miles on end. She prepares her son for a long journey of endurance. This book invites the reader in and prompts discussions about how we would make decisions and cope with the experience of being a refugee if we found ourselves in their shoes.
Sami’s Silver Lining (The Lost and Found Book 2)
Cathy Cassidy (Puffin Books)
This is the second book in Cathy Cassidy’s Lost and Found series but readers don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy this story. Sami is forced to flee his home in Syria for the safety of England and attempts to begin a new life. However, he cannot forget the hardships of his past. He undertook a long and dangerous journey across icy waters, armed with no possessions except for his dad's old coat, a flute and a small amount of hope for the future. The story follows his interactions with new friends and his love for a girl who helps him to see that his future may be brighter than his past…
Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (Hodder Children’s Books)
Illegal is a powerful graphic novel that introduces the reader to Ebo and his brother Kwame, who flee from their home in Ghana. With engaging text and illustration, the book follows their journey across Africa, being smuggled across the Mediterranean Sea and searching for safety n Europe. The book does not shy away from the brutality of the refugee experience but also shows Ebo’s hope for a brighter future and a reunion with his sister.
A Story Like the Wind
Gill Lewis (OUP Oxford)
Gill Lewis’s story is short but definitely memorable. A boy finds himself stranded on a small dinghy with a group of people, all of whom are fleeing a war and have paid a lot of money to make this journey. They know it is not going to be a safe or easy ride. The boy realises that he cannot share the food because he has nothing to offer in return. His only possession is a violin and he is encouraged to share music. He plays a song that tells a mesmerising story and it is so beautiful that his fellow passengers re-find their bravery and hope. The book gives insights into the refugee experiences still happening today and is a wonderful book to share together with young readers.
Tom Palmer (Barrington Stoke)
Pitch Invasion unites different boys with different stories but are united in their passion for football. Seth is nervously awaiting news of his mother, who has been ill, and is haunted by visions and worst case scenarios. He then meets two football-mad brothers from Aleppo, who share their refugee stories with him and offer Seth a new sense of courage. They come together and learn about different experiences and hardships. This is a powerful book and a good choice to engage a wide audience with issues of migration and refugees.
Sita Brahmachari (Macmillan Children’s Books)
A shortlisted book for the 2018 Rebel Awards, Tender Earth follows the story of Laila and her anger at the injustice in the world around her. One of her friends, Pari, faces racist abuse on the small housing estate she lives on, having fled to England with her mother. Her other friend, Kez, also faces bullying because of her family’s Jewish beliefs and the fact they are refugees. The book shows that being a refugee means many different things through a gripping plot and a celebration of friendship and fighting for equality.
Young adult fiction
The Bone Sparrow
Zana Fraillon (Orion Children’s Books)
Subhi is born in a refugee camp and his world does not move beyond the fences that surround the tents. At night, he dreams that the sea finds its way to his tent, bringing with it unusual treasures. One day, the sea brings him Jimmie. Carrying a notebook that she's unable to read and wearing a sparrow made out of bone around her neck, which are her keepsakes of her late mother and her past life, Jimmie and Subhi develop a friendship on either side of the fence. Subhi reads aloud the tale of Jimmie's family, taking both children on a journey of discovery.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Judith Kerr (Harper Collins)
Kerr’s semi-autobiographical novel is a hugely popular story that depicts the challenges of being a Jew at the time when Hitler was in power. The book follows the dangerous journey of Anna and her family, who must leave everything behind and set off in search of a new life.
Welcome to Nowhere
Elizabeth Laird (Macmillan Children’s Books)
The story is narrated by 12-year-old Omar, who lived in the beautiful and bustling city of Bosra, Syria until war changed everything. Omar didn’t care about politics; he wanted is to grow up to become a successful businessman. Soon, however, his world changes. Bombs are falling, people are dying, and Omar and his family have to flee their home with only what they can carry. It doesn’t help that his brother Musa gets caught up in the dangerous world of politics. They have no choice, after already facing challenging experiences, than to attempt the dangerous journey escaping their homeland altogether.
The Boy at the Back of the Class
Onjali Q. Rauf (Orion Children’s Books)
This is a fantastic book that gives a child’s understanding of what being a refugee means and also shows how influential young people can be in challenging inequality and making their voices heard. When 9-year-old Ahmet joins the narrator’s class, she is determined to become his friend, help him find his family and not let the bullies win.
The Other Side of Truth
Beverley Naidoo (Harper Trophy)
Sade and her brother suffer the most awful tragedy; they watch their mother get murdered. They are forced to leave their father and flee from their home in Nigeria to London and must navigate this unfamiliar country alone. The narrative is emotionally powerful and shows the dangers of speaking the truth in South Africa during the apartheid and shows how frightening and lonely the experience of being a refugee can be.
Benjamin Zephaniah (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Alem had thought he was on holiday with his father for a few days in London. Having never been out of Ethiopia before, he had a very exciting few days before waking up one morning to find his father has left him. Alem's father has left a letter explaining that because of the political problems in Ethiopia, he and Alem's mother felt Alem would be safer in London, although it pains them to leave him. Alem must now rely on social services and the Refugee Council. He waits for letters, waits to hear from his father and waits to hear about his mother, who has gone missing...
The Endless Steppe
Esther Hautzig (Puffin Classics)
This book is based on the author’s real life experience and is a great book to read as a family. It’s 1941. Esther Rudomin is ten years old when she finds herself and her family arrested by the Russians for being capitalists and transported to Siberia. They spend the next five years in exile, experiencing illness, suffering and hardship. They survive, barefoot and hungry, until the end of the Second World War. Despite the difficulties of their experience, Esther's story is full of optimism and shows how resilient the human spirit can be and the power of family.
Who are Refugees and Migrants? What Makes People Leave their Homes? And other Big Questions
Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young (Penguin Classics)
This helps young readers understand big issues in the world today. The authors explore the history of refugees and migration around the world and the effects of continuous wars and conflicts on communities and individuals. It celebrates diversity and multi-culturalism and includes a range of views from people with personal experience of migration, including the campaigners Meltem Avcil and Muzoon Almellehan, the comedian Omid Djalili and the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. It is aimed at children aged 10 and upwards and encourages readers to take an active role in building knowledge.
Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys
Mike Unwin (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
This is a beautifully written book and a great way to provide young readers with a wider context about what migration means. The book follows the journeys of all sorts of animals, who trek through all seasons and weathers on their own migrations. It teaches young readers about migration with a focus on other species that undergo these challenging experiences. With stunning illustrations and clear descriptions, the book is a brilliant way to increase children’s understanding of the world around them.
Malala’s Magic Pencil
Malala Yousafzai (Little Brown Books)
Malala’s Magic Pencil is a wonderful 2017 picture book, which outlines Malala’s experience growing up in Pakistan, and her desire for a magic pencil to solve her problems. This is a symbol for her increasing awareness that she can actively fight for change; Malala learns that she can campaign for change, such as the importance of equality and the rights of women to have an education.