Children's Books about the Immigrant Experience

Children's Books about the Immigrant Experience

Books featuring characters who are immigrants or refugees, and nonfiction books about the immigrant experience throughout history.

Compiled by:
Lizzie F.

Picture Books

A Different Pond

Bao Phi
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Phi

As a young boy, Bao Phi 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. Between hope-filled casts, Bao's father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam

Grandfather's Journey

Allen Say
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Sa

A Japanese American man recounts his grandfather's journey to America which he later also undertakes, and the feelings of being torn by a love for two different countries.

I'm New Here

Anne Sibley O'Brien
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Obr

Three children from other countries (Somalia, Guatemala, and Korea) struggle to adjust to their new home and school in the United States.

Joseph's Big Ride

Terry Farish
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Far

When Joseph, a refugee from South Sudan, moves to America, he encounters a curly-haired girl with a red bicycle just his size, and tries to convince her to let him ride.

The Keeping Quilt

Patricia Polacco
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Pol

A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith.

King of the Sky

Nicola Davies
Children's Picture Books – Ej Dav

When a young boy moves from his home in Italy to Wales, the only thing that cheers him up are the racing pigeons that Mr. Evans keeps in a loft behind his house.

Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation

Edwidge Danticat
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Dan

When Saya's mother is sent to jail as an illegal immigrant, she sends her daughter a cassette tape with a song and a bedtime story, which inspires Saya to write a story of her own—one that just might bring her mother home.

The Matchbox Diary

Paul Fleischman
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Fle

Follow a girl's perusal of her great-grandfather's collection of matchboxes and small curios that document his poignant immigration journey from Italy to a new country.


Marie-Louise Gay
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Gay

After leaving his war-torn country with his family, Mustafa visits a park near his new home and finds beautiful flowers, lady bugs, fall leaves, and finally, a friend.

My Name is Yoon

Helen Recorvits
Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Re

Disliking her name as written in English, Korean-born Yoon, or "shining wisdom," refers to herself as "cat," "bird," and "cupcake," as a way to feel more comfortable in her new school and new country.

One Green Apple

Eve Bunting
Children's Picture Books – Ej Bu

While on a school field trip to an orchard to make cider, a young immigrant named Farah gains self-confidence when the green apple she picks perfectly complements the other students' red apples.

The Quiet Place

Sarah Stewart
Children's Picture Books – Ej Ste

A little girl moves to the United States from Mexico with her family and writes letters to her aunt about her new life.


Rebecca Young
Children's Picture Books – Ej You

A boy travels across the sea in a rowboat in search of a new home, making a journey that is long and difficult—but also filled with beauty and hope.

This is Our House

Hyewon Yum
Children's Picture Books – Ej Yum

Follows a family through seasons and generations, as the house of their immigrant grandparents is transformed into a home.

The Treasure Box

Margaret Wild
Children's Picture Books – Ej Mcm

When war forces people to flee their homes, young refugee Peter carries a cherished family possession through a difficult period of survival, before reflecting on its importance years later.

Two White Rabbits

Jairo Buitrago
Children's Picture Books – Ej Bui

A young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel toward the U.S. border on the roof of a train known as the Beast—but the little girl doesn't know where they are going.

The Ugly Vegetables

Grace Lin
Children's Picture Books – Ej Lin

A little girl thinks her mother's garden is the ugliest in the neighborhood, until she discovers that though flowers might look and smell pretty, Chinese vegetable soup smells best of all.

Why Am I Here?

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen
Children's Picture Books – Ej Orb

A young girl wonders what life would be like if she lived somewhere else. What if she lived in a city with millions of people? What would it be like to be a refugee from a war-torn country? Is she meant to be in a different place? Or is she right where she's supposed to be?

Chapter Books

90 Miles to Havana

Enrique Flores-Galbis
Children's Fiction – J Floresg

When unrest hits the streets of Havana, Cuba, Julian's parents must make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation. But when the boys get to Miami, they are thrust into a world where bullies seem to run rampant and it's not always clear how best to protect themselves.

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan

Mary Williams
Children's Fiction – J Wi

Eight-year-old Garang, orphaned by a civil war in Sudan, finds the inner strength to help lead other boys as they trek hundreds of miles seeking safety in Ethiopia, then Kenya, and finally in the United States.

Call Me Maria: A Novel

Judith Ortiz Cofer
Children's – Ortizco

Fifteen-year-old Maria leaves her mother and their Puerto Rican home to live in the barrio of New York with her father, feeling torn between the two cultures in which she has been raised.

Esperanza Rising

Pam Muñoz Ryan
Juvenile Fiction - J Ryan

Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.


L. S. Matthews
Juvenile Fiction - J Matthew

As fighting closes in on the village where Tiger's parents have been working, the three of them and a mysterious guide set out on a difficult journey to safety. A subtle and sophisticated exploration of life, the strength of humanity, and survival in an unforgiving world, Fish is a story that will teach those who doubt that, when hope is almost extinguished, miracles can happen.

Home of the Brave

Katherine Applegate
Juvenile Fiction - J Applega

Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner.

Inside Out and Back Again

Thanhha Lai
Juvenile Fiction - J Lai

Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.

Letters from Rifka

Karen Hesse
Children's – J He

In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family's flight from Russia in 1919—and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others emigrate to America.

A Long Walk to Water

Linda Sue Park
Juvenile Fiction - J Park

When the Sudanese civil war reaches his village in 1985, eleven-year-old Salva becomes separated from his family and must walk with other Dinka tribe members through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of safe haven. Based on the life of Salva Dut, who, after emigrating to America in 1996, began a project to dig water wells in Sudan.

The Red Pencil

Andrea Davis Pinkney
Children's Fiction – J Pinkney

After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp. There she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education, in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder.


Immigrants' Rights, Citizens' Rights

Sara Howell
Children's Nonfiction – J 323.0973 How

Did you know that American laws protect all people who live in America, even people who aren't citizens? This book describes in clear language the rights that citizens and non-citizens have. Learn about different ways that people become citizens, how citizenship works, and how immigration plays a role in our society today.


Harriet Brundle
Children's Nonfiction – J 304.8 Bru

This topical series considers current world issues via informative facts and data, combined with modern imaging that will engage young readers.

A Song for Cambodia

Michelle Lord
Children's Nonfiction – J 921 Chorn-Pond Lor

A biography of Arn Chorn-Pond who, as a young boy in 1970s Cambodia, survived the Khmer Rouge killing fields thanks to his skill on the khim, a traditional instrument—and later went on to help heal others and revive Cambodian music and culture.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

Margriet Ruurs
Children's Nonfiction – J 492.7 Ruu

In this picture book, a young girl and her family are forced to flee their village to escape the civil war that has engulfed Syria and make their way toward freedom in Europe.

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

Mary Beth Leatherdale
Children's Nonfiction – J 305.906914 Lea

This book presents five true stories, from 1939 to today, about young people who lived through the harrowing experience seeking asylum. Ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape Nazism; Phu sets out alone from war-torn Vietnam; José tries to reach the United States from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan and the Taliban; and after losing his family, Mohamed abandons his village on the Ivory Coast in search of a new life.

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land

John Coy
Children's Nonfiction – J 305.906912 Coy

Explores the experience of immigrants who came to America in the twenty-first century, celebrating the diversity of the country and hope for the future.

Where Will I Live

Rosemary A. Mccarney
Children's – J 362.87 Mcc

This stunning photo-based picture book for younger readers takes a look at the thousands of children around the world who have been forced to flee war, terror, hunger, sickness, and natural disasters–young refugees on the move with very little left except questions. The final message is that children, even with uncertain futures, are resilient and can face uncertainty with optimism.