Five Children’s Books To Talk About Refugees And Migration

By Books2All Team

Wed 21 Jun 2023

Migration has been part of the human story for thousands of years. The reasons people migrate range from the simple to the complex; war, political persecution, famine or drought, reuniting with family, and having ancestral links to a place or country.

Although history shows us many examples of migration across continents, without those real and fictional stories being embedded as a natural part of the world around us, it can easily be misunderstood by children as well as adults.

The lack of empathy and misconceptions about migration has led to a fear of different cultures. Studies have shown the power of stories to increase our awareness of other people’s emotions, step into someone else’s shoes, and see the world through their eyes.

Here are the top five books to introduce the topic of migration from preschool right through to secondary school:

Under 5s. My Name is Not a Refugee, Kate Milner

The award-winning My Name Is Not A Refugee, written and illustrated by Kate Milner, explains refugees in a simple and child-friendly way. Suitable for under 5s, the illustrations take us on a journey by a mother and son fleeing an unknown country,
sleeping in strange places, eating peculiar food, with sudden noises and lots of waiting around. When they reach a safe place to call home the boy must remember that although people may call him a refugee, that is not his name.

9 – 11-year-olds. When Stars are Scattered, Victoria Jamieson

A heart-wrenching yet powerfully uplifting graphic novel following two young brothers Hassan and Omar whose lives are turned upside down during the civil war in Somalia. After losing their mother they end up in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where they stay for 7 years, facing hardship but also experiencing the profound kindness of strangers. Omar gets a chance to go to join a UN resettlement scheme in North America and at last, his hopes of finally finishing school can be realised.

11+. The Girl Who Saw Lions, Berlie Doherty.

A tale of two children, Abela and Rosa, living parallel lives on different continents. Born into an unforgiving childhood in Tanzania, Abela is orphaned during an AIDs epidemic and sent to England by her uncle as an illegal immigrant to find a better life. The two storytellers’ livers gradually become intertwined, eventually Abela finds a new home and lives with Rosa’s family.

12 +. Welcome to Nowhere, Elizabeth Laird.

Twelve-year-old Omar wants to be an entrepreneur when he grows up. He lives with his family in the city of Bosra, Syria, and works in his uncle’s souvenir shop trying to flag down tourists. When the civil war breaks out he witnesses the demonstrations and violence first hand and the family have to constantly move to escape. Inspired by the Scottish authors voluntary work at the two main Syrian refugee camps, Za’atari and Azraq in Jordan.

Teenager. Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys.

1945, German troops and eastern European civilians are attempting to flee the Russian army’s advances into Prussia. Stepping aboard the German transporter, the Wilhelm Gustloff, the fate of four individual narrators are sealed together. The perilous journey across the Baltic Sea will end in one of the largest naval disaster in history. Exploring themes of identity, belonging, nationality and compassion, the Lithuanian-American author Ruta Sepetys has won multiple accolades, and picked up the 2017 Carnegie Medal for children’s literature for Salt to the Sea.

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