20 Books About Refugee & Immigrant Experiences

In All, Books, Books for Better by Lauren Davis4 Comments

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This month, All the Wonders is exploring refugee and immigrant experiences as part of February’s #booksforbetter initiative. We believe compassion, empathy, and social responsibility should be instilled at an early age, and there is no better way to teach these traits than with powerful stories. Stories give our children a lens through which they can begin to see and comprehend challenges facing today’s global community, opening an age-appropriate dialogue between adults and children about these issues.

Below is a list of books that shine a light on refugee and immigrant experiences. We hope you use these #booksforbetter in your homes and in your schools, and we are looking forward to having you join our #booksforbetter Twitter chat on Monday, February 13th, at 8 pm EST.


by Rebecca Young, illustrated by Matt Ottley

A boy leaves his home to find another, bringing a teacup full of earth from the place where he grew up and setting off to sea.

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna

This refugee story is told through a child’s voice as he, his mother, and his sister journey from unspoken danger in their home country to a place where they can be safe.

by Barroux

Three polar bears search for a new home after the ice they live on breaks, but they are turned away from one island after another until they finally find a safe refuge

My Two Blankets
by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

An old blanket gives Cartwheel comfort as she remembers her old home—but her new blanket might just change her world.

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Saya’s mother—held in an immigrant detention center—sends her daughter recordings of Haitian stories, and inspires Saya to write a story of her own.

by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

As Anna and her fellow Mennonites travel north, Anna wonders what it would be like to stand still for a time and call a place home.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey
by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr, translated by Falah Raheem

A tender look at the harshness of displacement, told in pictures made of stones.

The Arrival
by Shaun Tan

A wordless, multi-paneled story about a man’s experience in a foreign land and the difficulty of communicating with his new community.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings
by Tanya Simon and Richard Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel

Oskar is a refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, arriving in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met.

Middle Grade and Young Adult

The Red Pencil
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane Davis

Amira must find the strength to flee her Sudanese village for a refugee camp—then the simple gift of a red pencil gives her renewed hope for her future.

Letters from Rifka
by Karen Hesse

When Rifka flees from Russia to America, she documents her life and new experiences in moving letters to a beloved cousin left behind.

Home of the Brave
by Katherine Applegate

After his brother and father are killed and his mother goes missing, Kek travels alone from Africa to Minnesota, where he forges new and unexpected friendships as he awaits word of his mother’s fate.

A Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sue Park

The gripping story of Salva, one of the lost boys of Sudan, who wanders the African continent by foot in search of a safe place to call home.

The Red Umbrella
by Christina Gonzalez

After freedoms are slowly stripped away in her home in Cuba, a teenager journeys with her little brother, as part of Operation Pedro Pan, from Cuba to America.

Inside Out and Back Again
by Thanhha Lai

The story of a young girl’s first year in America, this novel-in-verse is based on the author’s own childhood experience of immigrating to the United States from Vietnam.

The Breadwinner Trilogy
by Deborah Ellis

A collection of novels set in Afghanistan and Pakistan, tracing the journeys of two refugee girls—Parvana and Shauzia—as they face the widespread conflict and upheaval in their homelands.

The Turtle of Oman
by Naomi Shihab Nye

As Aref’s family prepares to move to Michigan from Oman, he struggles to accept leaving his school, his friends, and especially his beloved grandfather, Sidi.

Same Sun Here
by Silas House and Neela Vaswani

A novel told in letters between Meena, an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City’s Chinatown, and River, a Kentucky coal miner’s son.

Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys

A harrowing story in three voices—Joana, Emilia, and Florian—who are fleeing Europe on a refugee ship at the end of WWII.

The Sun is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon

A teenage girl finds love and safety just hours before her family will be deported to Jamaica.

Be sure to check out February’s #booksforbetter post and learn how powerful stories can help even the smallest of children comprehend pressing global challenges. Click here for more.


  1. Great list. Could I recommend also Refuge by Anne Booth Looking to the Stars by Jo Cotterell and my own novel Hidden by Miriam Halahmy.

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