Children’s Books with Refugees as Characters

By Lisa Heller

For this month’s booklist, the Content team collected titles about the refugee experience.

Students may see refugees on the news, but these books will help foster further understanding of the very real situations many children live in around the world. This is a difficult topic, but in each interest level, there are books to help open up discussions.



The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
LY | Quiz # 236319 | BL 3.0 | Walker Books
Imagine if, on an ordinary day, after a morning of studying tadpoles and drawing birds at school, war came to your town and turned it into rubble. Imagine if you lost everything and everyone, and you had to make a dangerous journey all alone.

Saving the Butterfly by Helen Cooper, illustrated by Gill Smith
LY | Quiz # 242152 | BL 2.7 | Walker Books
When a brother and sister are shipwrecked, warm arms reach out and rescue them, giving them shelter. But the older child still remembers her old life, and feels anxious in this new place. When a butterfly needs her help, she sees how to conquer her fear.

Wisp: A Story of Hope by Zana Fraillon, illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith
LY | Quiz # 234760 | BL 3.8 | Orchard Books
Idris is a child refugee, born into a world of tents and fences. He has no memories of the world outside. Then a Wisp arrives, floating in on the evening breeze. Everyone who holds it finds their hopes of freedom reborn.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
LY | Quiz # 237318 | BL 2.2 | Holiday House
In this illustrated picture-book biography, Yuyi Morales shares her story of leaving her home in Xalapa, Mexico and coming to the US with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed.



A Story Like the Wind by Gill Lewis
MY | Quiz # 233585 | BL 6.4 | Oxford University Press

A small boat drifts on the sea. The people inside it are far from home and have lost everything, but in sharing a song and story they keep hope alive in their hearts.

No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton
MY | Quiz # 236971 | BL 5.5 | Nosy Crow

Aya is eleven and has just arrived in Britain seeking asylum from war in Syria. When a dance teacher spots her talent, Aya has the potential to go to a prestigious ballet school. But will her family be allowed to remain in the country?

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali J.Rauf
MY | Quiz # 234973 | BL 5.4 | Orion Books

There used to be an empty chair at the back of the class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it. When the class learn that Ahmet is a refugee, one group of friends come up with a plan to help.

Do You Speak Chocolate? by Cas Lester
MY | Quiz # 233015 | BL 4.3 | Piccadilly Press
When new girl Nadima arrives at school, Jaz is delighted. The only problem is, Nadima doesn’t speak English. So Jaz finds a way to break the ice with Nadima with the help of a chocolate bar…

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson
MY | Quiz # 239350 | BL 3.7 | Faber and Faber
Omar and his younger brother Hassan live in a refugee camp, and when an opportunity for Omar to get an education comes along, he must decide between going to school every day or caring for his nonverbal brother.



 A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell
MY+ | Quiz # 238755 | BL 4.1 | Little Island
Based on the harrowing real-life experiences of Syrian families, this is the story of Ghalib and his family who are forced to leave Syria in search of a safe place to live.

A House Without Walls by Elizabeth Laird
MY+ | Quiz #239812 | BL 4.1 | Macmillan Children’s Books
Thirteen-year-old Safiya and her family have been driven out of Syria by civil war. Living in a tent near family, their struggle makes Safiya realise her family has always been incomplete and she decides to uncover the secrets that have been kept buried.

Boy Everywhere by A. M. Dassu
MY+ | Quiz # 240508 | BL 4.8 | Old Barn Books
Sami is a typical 13-year-old until a bombing in a mall forces his family to flee Damascus for a new life in the UK. Sami faces cruelty, indifference and many dangers on his journey, but also encounters help and kindness from unexpected places.

Boy 87 by Ele Fountain
MY+ | Quiz # 235050 | BL 4.8 | Pushkin 
Shif is an ordinary boy who likes chess, maths and racing his best friend home from school. But one day, soldiers with guns come to his door, and he is no longer safe. He is forced to embark on a dangerous journey through new lands and strange voices.

Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird
MY+ | Quiz # 231480 | BL 4.6 | Macmillan Children’s Books
Twelve-year-old Omar doesn’t care about politics – all he wants is to be a successful businessman. But soon, bombs are falling and Omar’s family have no choice but to flee with whatever they can carry.




The Crossing by Manjeet Mann
UY | Quiz # 242051 | BL 3.6 | Penguin Books
After her mum’s death, Nat’s only refuge is swimming. Sammy has fled Eritrea for the chance for a new life in Europe. A twist of fate will bring them together.

Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab
UY | Quiz # 242131 | BL 3.7 | Firefly Books
This fictionalised account calls on real-life circumstances and true tales of refugee families to serve as a microcosm of the Syrian uprising and the war and refugee crisis that followed.

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah
UY | Quiz # 233305 | BL 4.8 | Scholastic Children’s Books

Michael’s parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which make sense to him until he meets Mina, a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan.

We are currently updating our topics and subtopics on Bookfinder with the aim of making them more inclusive and useful for our customers. Please direct any suggestions you have to us via social media.

Why not get in touch via Twitter to let us know your favourite titles on this topic? If you have some titles you’d like to see quizzed, please use the request a quiz form.

Posted on 1 September 2022 at 9:48 am
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