20 Must-Read Children’s Books About Immigration

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Katisha Smith

Staff Writer

Katisha is a former military brat who studied engineering because she couldn’t hack it as a writer. You can find her on the internets talking books, movies, pop culture, beauty or whatever is floating her boat at the moment.

In a world where publishing companies are falling over each other to give a white woman $1 million dollars to “humanize the faceless brown mass,” it is essential for readers to seek out stories about immigration that are written by those who experience immigration and those who are personally affected by immigration. There are plenty of beautiful, compelling, and poignant books about immigration written by #ownvoices authors available for your reading pleasure. If you are looking for more children’s books about immigration, then look no further! Below we have a list of 20 must-read children’s books about immigration geared toward readers 12 and under.

Children’s Books About Immigration for Ages 0–5

These picture books introduce immigration to the youngest readers with engaging illustrations and easy to understand stories. The books include stories about the first generation immigrants and stories inspired by the author’s own immigration experience.

Apple Pie 4th of July Book CoverApple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong (Author) and Margaret Chodos-Irvine (Illustrator)

This picture book tells the story of a first generation Chinese American girl who is shocked to learn her parents are cooking traditional Chinese food to sell at their family business for America’s Independence Day. She thinks no one wants Chinese food on the Fourth of July, but she learns an important lesson as the evening brings a steady stream of patrons.

The Dress and the Girl by Camille Andros (Author) and Julie Morstad (Illustrator)

A young girl enjoys a simple life on a beautiful Greek island until she must leave the island for the United States. Upon arrival, the girl loses the suitcase carrying her favorite dress and fears the dress is lost forever. However, all is not lost. Years later as an adult, the girl sees the dress in a thrift store window, and the two are finally reunited. Although she can no longer wear the dress, it is perfect for her daughter.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales Book CoverDreamers by Yuyi Morales

In 1994, Yuyi Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico, with only her infant son, and came to the United States. She left behind everything she owned, but she brought her strength, her passion, her stories, and her dreams.

Dreamers is a celebration of what immigrants bring with them when they leave their homes. This story reminds readers that we are all dreamers and bring our own gifts wherever we go.

Mango Moon by Diane de Anda (Author) and Sue Cornelison (Illustrator)

Through Mango Moon, young readers see how a family deals with the deportation of a parent from a child’s perspective.

When their father is taken away and is facing deportation, Maricela, Manuel, and their mother must face many challenges to their daily lives due to his absence.

Children’s Books About Immigration for Ages 5–8

Similar to the previous group of books, these books include engaging #OwnVoices immigration stories along with beautiful illustrations for novice readers.

A Different Pond Book CoverA Different Pond by Bao Phi (Author) and Thi Bui (Illustrator)

In A Different Pond, a boy goes fishing with his father one early Saturday morning. While other families fish for recreation, his family, which immigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War, depends on the fish they catch to feed the entire family. After catching fish, the boy and his father return home, so the father can go to work. In the evening, the family will eat the fish that was caught during their morning fishing trip.

From North to South / Del Norte al Sur by René Colato Laínez (Author) and Joe Cepeda (Illustrator)

From North to South tackles the difficult and timely subject of family separation.

José loves helping Mamá in the garden outside their California home. When Mamá is sent back to Mexico for not having proper papers, José wonders when Mamá will be able to come home.

Laínez is donating a portion of his royalties for From North to South to El Centro Madre Assunta, a shelter helping women and children waiting to be reunited with their families.

Hannah is My Name by Belle Yang

Based on Belle Yang’s own immigration story, Hannah is My Name is a reflection of the many facets of the American Dream.

Hannah’s family has moved from Taiwan to San Francisco to make America their home. Baba tells his daughter Na-Li that in America people are free to speak their minds, and children can grow up to be whatever they choose. With that, Na-Li takes on a new name, begins a new school, learns a new language, and adjusts to a new way of life.

Here I Am by Patti Kim Book CoverHere I Am by Patricia Hee Kim (Author) and Sonia Sánchez (Illustrator)

In this enthralling picture book, a boy and his family arrives from their faraway homeland to a noisy, busy American city. They are not familiar with the language, and the food and habits of those around them are puzzling. The boy clings to a special keepsake from home and wonders how he will find his way in this new place.

La Mariposa by Francisco Jiménez (Author) and Simón Silva (Illustrator)

Francisco is the son of a migrant worker who is struggling through his first year of school. He understands little of what his teacher says and gets a headache while listening to the other children speak English. The only word he recognizes is his own name. Most of the time, Francisco lets his mind wander while watching the silent, slow-moving caterpillar in the jar next to his desk.

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat (Author) and Leslie Staub (Illustrator)

When her mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort listening to her mother’s warm greeting on the family’s answering machine. While in jail, Mama sends Saya cassette tapes filled with bedtime stories inspired by Haitian folklore. Moved by her mother’s stories and her father’s attempt to reunite their family, Saya writes her own story that might just bring Mama home from good.

My Diary from Here to There Book CoverMy Diary from Here to There by Amada Irma Pérez (Author) and Maya Christina Gonzalez (Illustrator)

Inspired by Pérez’s immigration to America from Mexico, My Diary from Here to There follows Amada and her family during their journey to Los Angeles. Along the way, Amada records her fears, hopes, and dreams for her new life and learns that with the love of her family and by believing in herself, she can adapt to any change.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

In this allegory about migration simplified for young readers, Papa Rabbit traveled north to work in the carrot and lettuce fields to earn money for his family, and Pancho is eagerly waiting for Papa Rabbit to return. When Papa doesn’t return, Pancho sets out to find him. Along his journey, Pancho meets a coyote who offers to help Pancho in exchange for some of the food Pancho packed for Papa. They travel together until the food is gone…but the coyote is still hungry.

Tea With Milk by Allen Say

At home in San Francisco, Masako, known as May to her friends, is planning to go to college and live in her own apartment. However, her life after high school is uprooted when her parents return to their Japanese homeland. Not only must Masako repeat high school to learn Japanese, she is expected to adapt to Japanese cultural norms like wearing kimonos and learning the arts of a “proper Japanese lady.”

Children’s Books About Immigration for Ages 8–12

The following children’s books about immigration are for middle grade readers and some of them may explore some of the darker elements surrounding immigration.

Blue Jasmine Book CoverBlue Jasmine by Kashmira Sheth

Inspired by Kashmira Sheth’s experience of moving from India to America as a teenager, Blue Jasmine tells the story of 12-year-old Seema Trivedi, who learns she and her family must move from their small Indian town to Iowa City. In Iowa City, language barriers and cultural traditions make Seema feel like an outsider, but she soon learns how to build a bridge between her new and old homes.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (Author) and Lee White (Illustrator)

Celeste Marconi is a dreamer living in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile, until a new dictatorship declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be “subversives” who are dangerous to Chile’s future. Celeste’s generous, educated, and kind parents must go into hiding. To protect Celeste, they send their daughter to live in America.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

After the death of their mother in the Philippines, Soledad and Ming Madrid are brought to the United States by their father. Soon after, they are abandoned by their father and are left to live in Louisiana with their abusive stepmother Vea. Sol and Ming find escape in Sol’s creative stories, but Ming begins to believe their mythical, world-traveling Auntie Jove will soon rescue them. Sol has always protected Ming, but can she protect Ming from disappointment?

Pie in the Sky Book CoverPie in the Sky by Remy Lai

For Jingwen, living in a new country is torturous. It is impossible to make new friends at school because he doesn’t speak English, and he often has to look after his irritating little brother, Yanghao. As a distraction, Jingwen dreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father planned to open before unexpectedly passing away. The brothers aren’t allowed to use the oven while their mother is at work, so they will have to cook up some elaborate excuses to keep their baking escapades a secret.

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

After Tyler’s father is injured in an accident, the family must hire undocumented Mexican workers in a last-ditch effort to save their Vermont farm. Despite his reservations, Tyler soon bonds with one of the worker’s daughters, Mari. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

After seeing the haunting image of Alan Kurdi, Hosseini composed this short, but powerful illustrated book. The story is composed in the form of a letter from a father to his son. They have fled their Syrian home due to the Syrian Civil War and face the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean.

Hosseini is donating all the proceeds from Sea Prayer to the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund refugee relief efforts around the globe.

shooting kabul by nh senzai book coverShooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

In the summer of 2001, Fadi’s parents made the difficult decision to illegally leave Afghanistan and move their family to the United States. During the escape, Fadi’s younger sister Mariam gets lost in the crowd and is left behind. Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family, especially after September 11, and finding Miriam in war-torn Afghanistan seems slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister.