This past month has been a particularly heavy month to watch news from around the world. The upheaval in Afghanistan has led to scores of displaced families becoming refugees. Many thousands have and will continue to settle in our own areas. They will become our new neighbors, and like any mother, I want my children to understand and have compassion towards our neighbors.
Books are a phenomenal resource
As I found myself wanting to explain this crisis to my children, I found that the most powerful way to do this was through books. Concepts of war and displacement can be so abstract to children. But with a well-written story in hand, books are a phenomenal resource to teach children about the refugee crisis in a way they can better comprehend.
I turned to one of my all-time favorite resources – the DC Public Library system – to see what was in stock. The following list includes books about refugees that are all available throughout the DC Public Library. Go ahead and check them out and start the conversation with your kids today!
Books About Refugees
Picture Books For Younger Children (ages 3-6)
- Lilah Tov, Goodnight by Ben Gundersheimer. A goodnight book with Jewish themes that depicts a family journeying to a new place. This is a great introduction for young children on the theme of leaving home.
- Story Boat by Kyo Maclear. The focus of this migration story is a child’s hope in uncertainty.
- Where Will I Live? By Rosemary McCarney. (DCPL also has this book in Spanish). Children will be drawn to the mesmerizing photos of refugee children from around the world.
- What Is A Refugee? by Elise Gravel is a thoughtful introduction to the topic for younger children.
Picture Books For Older Children (ages 5+)
- Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour is a touching and powerful story to help children empathize with refugees.
- Yursa Swims by Julie Abery and Sally Deng tells the story of Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini who became a two-time Olympic swimmer representing the Refugee Olympic Team in 2016 and 2021. An inspirational story for any young athlete!
- Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr. Gorgeous illustrations made from stones and poetic verse make this a unique picture book describing life as a refugee. Written in English and Arabic.
- The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang uses the author’s own experiences as a Hmong refugee in this multi-generational story.
- Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed. One of my favorites and a tear jerker. I highly recommend this as a conversation starter for children of all ages!
- The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee’s Story by Pegi Deitz Shea tells about life in a Thai refugee camp.
- The Day War Came by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb poignantly depicts how war changes our ordinary lives in an instant.
- Azzi In Between by Sarah Garland. The story of little Azzi fleeing her country and settling in a new one is told comic-style illustrations.
- Gervelie’s Journey: A Refugee Diary by Anthony Robinson and Annemarie Young tells the true story of a Congolese refugee. A powerful story, but some elements are better for older kids.
- A Refugee’s Journey From Afghanistan by Helen Mason. There are actually 19 of these “Leaving My Homeland” books in DC Public Library, each highlighting people from various nations becoming refugees (Iraq, Myanmar, El Salvador, etc).
- Tani’s New Home: A Refugee Finds Hope and Kindness in America, by Tani Adewumi. This picture-book biography tells the story of Tani, a 6 year old refugee from Nigeria who moves to New York City and discovers chess.
- Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay. A young boy finds similarities and differences between his old and new countries.
- We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai. My 8 year old is obsessed with Noble Peace Prize winner Malala, and was excited to see this new book! We Are Displaced shares intimate stories of refugee girls around the world.
- Crossing the Farak River by Michelle Aung Thin tells the story of a 14 year old Rohingya girl trying to escape to safety.
- The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf is a fiction book about Ahmet, a 9-year-old Syrian refugee in the U.K.
- The Breadwinner Series (Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, Mud City, I Am Parvana) by Deborah Ellis. Set in Afghanistan, this four part series chronicles life under the Taliban and a family’s need to become refugees.
- When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson. This graphic novel is a National Book Award Finalist and chronicles the life of a Somali refugee living in a camp in Kenya.
- Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee. Set in 1950 North Korea, this story chronicles the journey of siblings trying to flee to South Korea.
- Flying Over Water by N.H. Senzai and Shannon Hitchcock. Two girls in Florida – one an American and one a Syrian refugee – are at the center of this story examining friendship and faith in the midst of cultural and political stressors.
- Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu chronicles a family fleeing Syria for the U.K.
- Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri is the author’s story of being a refugee from Iraq and eventually settling in Oklahoma.