Core Collection: Picture-Book
Refugee and Immigration Stories
This collection of picture books for young and middle-grade readers tackles
topics becoming more pressing by the day.
BY SARAH HUNTER
The world is a complicated place, sometimes even a terrifying one, and although the impulse to protect children from the ugly parts is natural, the prevalence of news reports and photojournalism means it’s unlikely they’ll be
in the dark for long about some people’s attitudes towards immigrants and refugees.
As children encounter these newcomers in the news, their neighborhoods, or their
classrooms and inevitably begin to ask questions, a picture book can be a perfect
way to start a conversation. And for children who may have experienced similar
events firsthand, it could offer some much-needed comfort or solidarity. Taking
various approaches to the material, from artistically ambiguous to movingly candid,
the following titles—picture book in format but aimed at a range of ages—tell stories
of contemporary immigrants and refugees seeking out a place to safely call home.
They might not answer all the questions, but they’ll certainly get kids thinking.
Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story
of Survival. By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
and Tuan Ho. Illus. by Brian Deines.
2016. Pajama, $18.95 (9781772780055).
In this picture book for somewhat
Four Feet, Two Sandals. By Karen Lynn
older readers, Ho narrates the story
of his perilous escape from postwar
Vietnam, in 1981, describing his pain
at leaving behind loved ones and relief
upon being rescued by an American
aircraft carrier after six days adrift on
the ocean. The text is terse and unem-
bellished, leaving the rich images to
capture the emotional events. Photo-
graphs of the family bookend the story
and remind readers of the events’ real-
Williams and Khadra Mohammed. Illus.
by Doug Chayka. 2007. Eerdmans, $17
(9780802852960). Gr. 1–3.
In a refugee camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Lina, 10, finds one
sandal that fits her perfectly, but Feroza
is wearing the other one. They eventually
decide to each wear both sandals on alternate days and become friends, but they
must part when Lina and her mother get
to go to America. With evocative paintings and a moving tale of sharing and
From the cover of Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds.