Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

5 Children’s Books about Refugees

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LH Johnson

Staff Writer

LH reads, writes and researches children’s books. She's also a librarian, blogger, and makes pretty amazing chocolate brownies. Cake and books, what’s not to love?

I figured out how to write this post when I was at Pop-Up Lab 2017, listening to the author and translator of  Alpha talk about their book. As they spoke, Bessora, the author, said this:

“We are all somebodies, not nobodies” – Bessora.

Children’s books allow you to find that somebody. They offer you the opportunity to ask questions that might not have easy answers—or indeed, any answers at all. Realising that is hard. Admitting that to a child is even harder. Books like the ones I’m going to recommend here allow you to bridge that gap and start that conversation.

Alpha by Bessora and Barroux (trans. Sarah Ardizzone)

Alpha was originally published in French with a handwritten “diary” font. I’ve linked here to the English language version from Barrington Stoke, which changes that handwritten font to serif, intended to enhance the accessibility of the book to all readers. The artwork is unchanged and is inspired by the idea that Alpha himself picked up a pack of felt-tip pens during his journey. This eye towards realism and honesty burns through the entire book.

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey won the Amnesty CILIP Honour in 2017, and reader, I cheered. It’s the story of an unnamed family who are forced to leave their home country and delivers one of the most moving spreads I’ve ever seen in a picture book. As with many of these books, it’s one to read by yourself firsthand in order to understand and anticipate questions that might be asked. Plus, reading books like this is a gift.

My Name Is Not Refugee by Kate Milner

My Name Is Not Refugee is a very particular kind of wonderful. The big strength of this picture book lies in how it wants to start conversation. It repeatedly, and sensitively, asks the reader what they’d do in similar circumstances. It’s also another title on this list that’s published by Barrington Stoke, and influenced by their commitment towards making “super-readable” books.

Looking at the Stars by Jo CotterillLooking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill

This is one to direct your confident independent readers towards, and then borrow it back for yourself. Looking At The Stars follows Amina and her family along their journey and into a refugee camp. It asks the reader to consider the value of stories and hope, in a world that seems determined to stamp them out. It’s a beautiful, moving tribute to the power—and strength—of imagination.


Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland

Forced to leave her own country, and have her grandmother stay behind. Azzi is a girl caught between two worlds. This rich and sensitive comic book explores just what it means to not feel like you belong. It’s a powerful, heartfelt, and sensitively told story—that’s also endorsed  by Amnesty International. You can read more about Garland’s creative process here.