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.

Picturebooks and Younger Elementary

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. Recommended for ages 6-9.


Yuyi Morales
(Juvenile Nonfiction – J 921 Morales Mor)

Yuyi and her son Kelly's passage was not easy, and Yuyi spoke no English whatsoever at the time. But together, they found an unexpected, unbelievable place: the public library. There, book by book, they untangled the language of this strange new land, and learned to make their home within it. Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It's a story about family. And it's a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Recommended for ages 6-9.

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. Recommended for ages 6-9.


Harriet Brundle
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 6-9.

The Journey

Francesca Sanna
(Juvenile Picture Books – Ej San)

What is it like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? A mother and her two children set out on such a journey; one filled with fear of the unknown, but also great hope. Based on the author's interactions with people forced to seek a new home, and told from the perspective of a young child. Recommended for ages 6-9.

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. Recommended for ages 3-6.


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. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Quiet Place

Sarah Stewart
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

Margriet Ruurs
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 6-9.

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

John Coy
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 6-9.

This is Our House

Hyewon Yum
(Juvenile Picture Books – Ej Yum)

Follows a family through seasons and generations, as the house of their immigrant grandparents is transformed into a home. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Treasure Box

Margaret Wild
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Where Will I Live

Rosemary A. Mccarney
(Juvenile Nonfiction – 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. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Why Am I Here?

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen
(Juvenile 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? Recommended for ages 6-9.

Older Elementary

90 Miles to Havana

Enrique Flores-Galbis
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 8-12.

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. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Immigrants' Rights, Citizens' Rights

Sara Howell
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 8-12.

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. Recommended for ages 8-12.

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. Recommended for ages 8-12.

The Red Pencil

Andrea Davis Pinkney
(Juvenile 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. Recommended for ages 8-12.