The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
Did you know June is Immigrant Heritage Month?
The immigrant and refugee experience in America is not limited to a single generation. It's safe to say every family in the United States has or has heard an immigration story in their lifetime. After all, the diversity of our country was made possible due to a steady influx of immigrants and refugees over a very long period of time. People began migrating to the Americas long before the United States was fully established as a country hundreds of years ago. And it's quite possible your great-great grandparents or other distant relatives were immigrants or children/grandchildren of immigrants themselves.
The history of immigration in the United States is not straight-forward, but incredibly complex (as most things tend to be). Immigrants and refugees have complex stories as well. Stories that need to be shared and explored by people of all ages. Stories that help us, as a nation of diverse individuals, better understand and empathize with our fellow man/woman/child.
Below, you'll find a wide-variety of books for kids that illustrate the wonderful diversity in our country. These books are great to read during Immigrant Heritage Month (or anytime really). And if you're looking for even more library materials (for all ages) that explore the immigrant and refugee experience in America, check out our blog post from last year entitled The Immigrant and Refugee Experience in America.
Immigrant / Refugee Experience
Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour ; illustrated by Daniel Egnéus
In an unforgettable story that subtly addresses the refugee crisis, a young girl must decide if friendship means giving up the one item that gives her comfort during a time of utter uncertainty. Lubna's best friend is a pebble. Pebble always listens to her stories. Pebble always smiles when she feels scared. But when a lost little boy arrives in the World of Tents, Lubna realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does. This emotionally stirring and stunningly illustrated picture book explores one girl's powerful act of friendship in the midst of an unknown situation.
Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña ; illustrated by Christian Robinson
When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true--she's finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make. With lyrical, stirring text and stunning, evocative artwork, Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson have crafted a moving ode to family, to dreamers, and to finding hope in the most unexpected places.
A Different Pond written by Bao Phi ; illustrated by Thi Bui
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.
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina ; illustrated by Angela Dominguez
When Mia's Abuela comes to live with Mia and her family, she helps her learn English while Mia learns Spanish, both with the help of a parrot named Mango.
This is Me : A Story of Who We Are & Where We Came From by Jamie Lee Curtis ; illustrated by Laura Cornell
From the #1 New York Times bestselling creative team of Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell comes a timely picture book about immigration. Raising important identity issues like “Where did we come from?” and “Who are we?” This Is Me is as delightful as it is important, sure to stimulate dinner table conversation.
In This Is Me a teacher tells her class about her great-grandmother’s dislocating journey from home to a new country with nothing but a small suitcase to bring along. And she asks: What would you pack? What are the things you love best? What says “This is me!” With its lively, rhyming language and endearing illustrations, it’s a book to read again and again, imagining the lives of the different characters, finding new details in the art, thinking about what it would be like to move someplace completely different.
The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
When Patricia's Great-Gramma Anna came to America as a child, the only things she brought along from Russia were her dress and the babushka she liked to throw up into the air when she was dancing. Soon enough, though, Anna outgrew the dress and her mother decided to incorporate it and the babushka into a quilt. "It will be like having a family in backhome Russia dance around us at night," she said. And so it was. Together with her Uncle Vladimir's shirt, Aunt Havalah's nightdress, and an apron of Aunt Natasha's, Anna's mother made a quilt that would be passed down through their family for almost a century. The Keeping Quilt, Patricia Polacco's signature piece, was first published in 1988 and won the Sydney Taylor Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries.
Lost and Found Cat : The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes ; illustrated by Sue Cornelison
This heartwarming true story of one lost cat's journey to be reunited with his refugee family gently introduces children to a difficult topic and shows how ordinary people can help with compassion and hope. When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they can’t bear to leave their beloved cat, Kunkush, behind. So they carry him with them from Iraq to Greece, keeping their secret passenger hidden away.
But during the crowded boat crossing to Greece, his carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs from the chaos, disappearing. After an unsuccessful search, his family has to continue their journey, leaving brokenhearted. A few days later, aid workers in Greece find the lost cat. Knowing how much his family has sacrificed already, they are desperate to reunite them. A worldwide community comes together to spread the word on the Internet and in the news media, and after several months the impossible happens—Kunkush’s family is found, and they finally get their happy ending in their new home. This remarkable true story is told by the real people involved, with the full cooperation of Kunkush’s family.
Stepping Stones : A Refugee Family's Journey by Margriet Ruurs ; artwork by Nizar Ali Badr
This unique picture book was inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, discovered by chance by Canadian children’s writer Margriet Ruurs. The author was immediately impressed by the strong narrative quality of Mr. Badr’s work, and, using many of Mr. Badr’s already-created pieces, she set out to create a story about the Syrian refugee crisis.
Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe. Nizar Ali Badr’s stunning stone images illustrate the story.
Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay
Mustafa and his family traveled a long way to reach their new home. Some nights Mustafa dreams about the country he used to live in, and he wakes up not knowing where he is. Then his mother takes him out to the balcony to see the moon — the same moon as in their old country. In the park, Mustafa sees ants and caterpillars and bees — they are the same, too. He encounters a “girl-with-a-cat,” who says something in a language that he can’t understand. He watches an old lady feeding birds and other children playing, but he is always looking in from the outside and he feels that he is invisible. But one day, the girl-with-the-cat beckons to him, and Mustafa begins to become part of his new world.
Marie-Louise Gay’s remarkable ability to write and illustrate from the perspective of a young child is movingly exhibited in this gentle, thoughtful story about coming to feel at home in a new country.
The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart ; pictures by David Small
When Isabel and her family move to the United States, Isabel misses all the things she left behind in Mexico, especially her aunt Lupita and hearing people speak Spanish. But she also experiences some wonderful new things--her first snow storm and a teacher who does not speak Spanish but has a big smile. Even better, Papa and her brother Chavo help her turn a big box into her own quiet place, where she keeps her books and toys and writes letters to Aunt Lupita. As she decorates and adds more and more on to her quiet place, it is here that Isabel feels the most at home in her new country while she learns to adjust to the changes in her life.
Set in the 1950s and told through Isabel's letters to her aunt, Sarah Stewart and Caldecott Medalist David Small have created a charming and unforgettable young heroine who will win the hearts of readers in this story of immigration and assimilation.
The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild ; illustrated by Freya Blackwood
A moving and hopeful tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit when war forces people to flee their homes. The Treasure Box traces the story of young refugee Peter, who carries a cherished family possession throughout a difficult period of survival before reflecting on its importance years later.
Joseph's Big Ride by Terry Farish
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 Seeds of Friendship by Michael Foreman
Adam, an immigrant boy in a big city, is lonely until he see snow for the first time and starts to play with the neighborhood children, but when he starts school he gets some seeds and begins to plant them with help from his new friends.
I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien
Three students are immigrants from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia and have trouble speaking, writing, and sharing ideas in English in their new American elementary school. Through self-determination and with encouragement from their peers and teachers, the students learn to feel confident and comfortable in their new school without losing a sense of their home country, language, and identity.
Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin Kheiriyeh
Rashin is an Iranian immigrant girl living in New York, excited by her first trip to Coney Island, and fascinated by the differences in the beach customs between her native Iran and her new home--but she misses the saffron flavored ice cream that she used to eat.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
In 1994, Yuyi Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico and came to the US with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn't come empty-handed.
She brought her strength, her work, her passion, her hopes and dreams. . . and her stories. Caldecott Honor artist and six-time Pura Belpré winner Yuyi Morales's gorgeous picture book Dreamers is about making a home in a new place. 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.
Looking for more Immigrant and Refugee stories for children?
Featured Image Credit: Image by Zachtleven from Pixabay.