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12 New and Noteworthy Picture Books About Refugees

Looking for the best picture books about refugees? These children’s books about refugees will be engaging for your students! Picture books with lesson plans and activities linked for your Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students. Picture books about refugees, refugee families, the refugee experience and more for your elementary school students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn

An arresting, poetic journey and a moving reflection on immigration, family, and home, from an acclaimed creative team.

Wishes tells the powerful, honest story about one Vietnamese family’s search for a new home on the other side of the world, and the long-lasting and powerful impact that makes on one of the youngest members of the family. Inspired by actual events in the author’s life, this is a narrative that is both timely and timeless. Told through the eyes of a young girl, the story chronicles a family’s difficult and powerful journey to pack up what they can carry and to leave their world behind, traveling to a new and unknown place in a crowded boat.

Looking for the best children's books on refugees? These children's books about refugees will be engaging for your students! Picture books with lesson plans and activities linked for your Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students. Picture books about refugees, refugee families, the refugee experience and more for your elementary school students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Four Feet Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one.

As the girls go about their routines — washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America — the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Name Jar HERE

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

Yoon’s name means Shining Wisdom, and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English when they immigrate. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn’t sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names – maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE!

Get the lesson plan and activities for My Name is Yoon HERE

Islandborn by Junot Diaz

Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island (the Dominican Republic)—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.” An excellent book also for Hispanic Heritage Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Islandborn HERE

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

As a young boy, Bao and his father awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. Thi Bui’s striking, evocative art paired with Phi’s expertly crafted prose has earned this powerful picture books six starred reviews and numerous awards.

Get the lesson plan and activities for A Different Pond HERE

Brothers In Hope by Mary Williams

Eight-year-old Garang is tending cattle far from his family’s home in southern Sudan when war comes to his village. Frightened but unharmed, he returns to find everything has been destroyed. Soon Garang meets other boys whose villages have been attacked. Before long they become a moving band of thousands, walking hundreds of miles seeking safety — first in Ethiopia and then in Kenya. The boys face numerous hardships and dangers along the way, but their faith and mutual support help keep the hope of finding a new home alive in their hearts. One the best picture books about refugees!

Watercress by Andrea Wang

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can.

At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress. A great book about Asian Americans and family history.

Gleam and Glow by Eve Bunting

Inspired by real events, master storyteller Eve Bunting recounts the harrowing yet hopeful story of a family, a war–and a dazzling discovery.

Mexique by Maria Jose Ferrada

On May 27, 1937, over four hundred children sailed for Morelia, Mexico, fleeing the violence of the Spanish Civil War. Home was no longer safe, and Mexico was welcoming refugees by the thousands. Each child packed a suitcase and boarded the Mexique, expecting to return home in a few months. This was just a short trip, an extra-long summer vacation, they thought. But the war did not end in a few months, and the children stayed, waiting and wondering, in Mexico. When the war finally ended, a dictator—the Fascist Francisco Franco—ruled Spain. Home was even more dangerous than before. A book about an experience that led to post traumatic stress disorder.

For the Right to Learn by Rebecca Langston-George

She grew up in a world where women were supposed to be quiet. But Malala Yousafzai refused to be silent. Discover Malala’s story through this powerful narrative telling, and come to see how one brave girl named Malala changed the world.

Get the lesson plan and activities for For the Right to Learn HERE

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the smell of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as she grew older, Malala saw that there were more important things to wish for. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true.

This beautifully illustrated volume tells Malala’s story for a younger audience and shows them the worldview that allowed Malala to hold on to hope even in the most difficult of times. A great book to read for Women’s History Month or for talking about activism and making a difference.

Best Picture Books About Refugees

What are some of your favorite picture books about refugees? Are there any must read picture books about refugees that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

Looking for the best children's books on refugees? These children's books about refugees will be engaging for your students! Picture books with lesson plans and activities linked for your Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students. Picture books about refugees, refugee families, the refugee experience and more for your elementary school students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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