5 Books for Kids about the Refugee Experience

It is vital in today's society for people of all ages to understand the lives of refugees around the world. It is especially important in places like King County, where we live in communities alongside refugees from numerous different countries. You are never too young to embrace acceptance and cultivate empathy towards people from other cultures. Here are 5 books written for children on the modern refugee experience.

  1. Welcome

This adorable, whimsical picture book tells the story of a polar bear family who have lost their home, are adrift at sea and must find somewhere else to stay before it's too late. This simple metaphor for the complex issues of both climate change and refugee resettlement is a great conversation starter for younger kids.

 2. Stepping stones

This touching story of a Syrian refugee family written in both Arabic and English features the unique stone artwork of Nizar Ali Badr. Each illustration uses stones to depict figures and scenes of family life. Children's author Margariet Ruurs was inspired by the emotional strength of Badr's imagery. She tracked him down in Syria and convinced him to collaborate on this book. Her story of Rama's family shows the ways in which refugee lives are touched by sorrow and tragedy as well as courage and hope.

 3. My Beautiful Birds

This stunning picture book by Suzanne Del Rizzo uses gorgeous three-dimensional works of clay and plasticine to illustrate the story of Sami, a young Syrian refugee. Sami is forced to leave his home and his pet pigeons behind when violent clashes make it unsafe for him to live in his neighborhood. Although he and his family are able to reach the refugee camp safely, Sami has a difficult time adjusting to his new way of life and is devastated by the loss of his pigeons. This book does an excellent job of introducing children to the emotional struggles experienced by refugee children and how they can support other children who are adjusting to new surroundings.

 4. Where Will I Live?

This easy nonfiction read carries an important message that is not so easy to confront: refugee children continue to suffer throughout the world, and as we welcome them into our communities, we should do so with open arms as well as open hearts. Author Rosemary McCarney is also Canada's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She tells the very real story of refugees throughout the world and accompanies her text with photographs of actual refugee children. Some of the images may be unfamiliar to children, but none of them should be overtly upsetting to school age kids. 

 5. The Bone Sparrow

Unlike the previous suggestions, this book from Australian author, Zana Fraillon, is a novel for older children, not a picture book. It tells the story of Subhi, a refugee of Burmese descent who was born in a detention center in Australia and thus has known no other home. Although his day-to-day life is lonely and difficult, he escapes through his dreams and the stories he tells. Despite his many challenges, Subhi remains optimistic and cheerful. When he meets a girl named Jimmie through a hole in the detention center razor wire, his life is forever changed for the better. Subhi is able to help his new friend by reading stories to her, and she is able to comfort him with gifts of good food and companionship.

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