Picture Books for World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day reminds me of my family’s journey from Vietnam to America. But more importantly, World Refugee Day reminds me of the millions of…

World Refugee Day reminds me of my family’s journey from Vietnam to America. But more importantly, World Refugee Day reminds me of the millions of people who are still currently putting their lives at risk to find a better life for themselves and their families.

Below are some picture books to help your students learn more about the refugee experience and possibly, connect to their own journey to a better future.

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1. LILAH TOV GOOD NIGHT by Ben Gundersheimer & Illustrated by Noar Lee Naggan- Amid her journey to search for a better life with her family, a little girl finds beauty in nature. Along the way, she says good night to birds in the sky, fish in the sea, and the trees in the landscape before they reach their destination and she falls asleep safely in her new home. This sweet Jewish lullaby is tender and reminds us of the resiliency of children and their ability to find beauty in their surroundings.

2. WHAT IS A REFUGEE by Elise Gravel- This book is filled with easy-to-understand graphics to help answer questions children may have about refugees. With spare text and bold illustrations, children are invited to explore this very relevant topic on refugees and their experiences.

3. LUBNA and PEBBLE by Wendy Meddour & Illustrated by Daniel Egneus- Lubna arrives in the World of Tents, where she finds friendship in a pebble. Pebble listens to her stories and always smiles at her. When Lubna sees a little boy lost in the World of Tents, she selflessly gifts him Pebble to help him feel better.

4.  ÁNH’S NEW WORD: A STORY ABOUT LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE by Hanh Bui and Illustrated by Bao Luu- Ánh lives in a Vietnamese refugee camp with her grandma after leaving Vietnam. Feeling lost in her new temporary home and in translation, Ánh surprisingly finds a picture of an animal on a shirt that her kind teacher has been teaching her. Excited to share the new word that she has learned in English, Ánh shows children that they too can show courage and learn a new language one word at a time.

5. MY NAME IS NOT REFUGEE by Kate Milner- A boy and his mother must leave their home, friends, and family to find refuge and safety. They embark on a journey that is scary, boring, interesting, and strange. When they reach their new home, others call them refugees. However, the boy reminds them that that is not his name and all there is to him.

6.  A DIFFERENT POND by Bao Phi & Illustrated by Thi Bui- Bao and his father go fishing in the early hours of the morning at a pond in Minnesota to provide their family additional food.  At the pond, Bao’s father shares stories of the pond in Vietnam that their family left behind to find a better life in America.

7. WISHES by Mượn Thị Văn and illustrated by Victo Ngai- Inspired by the life of the author, this poetically sparse story follows a young girl who must leave their life behind to find a new life filled with new beginnings and wishes for a brighter future.

8.  LAST FLIGHT by Kristen Mai Giang and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk- Based on the author’s life, Kristen Giang is an eight-year-old girl who takes the last flight out of Vietnam with her family before the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. Follow their journey as Kristen and her sister pretend to be space explorers to shield themselves from tear gas and find comfort from the stuffed animal that they were able to fit into their suitcase to find a new life in America.

9.  WORDS BETWEEN US by Angela Pham Kran and illustrated by Dung Ho- Felix’s grandma moves in with him and his family from Vietnam but she doesn’t know English and he doesn’t know Vietnamese. When Grandma gets lost, Felix comes up with a plan to teach her English as they bond over flashcards and words that help bond them together.

10.  I AM BOTH: A VIETNAMESE REFUGEE STORY by Kerisa Greene- Hương enjoys her life in Saigon then one day, her family decides to take the last flight out of the city to America. In her new home, she makes new friends and learns that home and the traditions that are special to her from home can be found no matter where she is in the world.

11.  FINDING PAPA by Angela Pham Krans & Illustrated by Thi Bui- Inspired by the author’s experience, Mai and her mother embark on a dangerous journey to find Papa who had left Vietnam to find freedom and a better life in America for their family.  Along the way, they encounter help and refuge that lead them to Papa in their new home.

12. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I HAVE EVER SEEN by Nadia Devi Umadat & Illustrated by Christine Wei- When war comes to their home, a little girl watches fear on her mother’s face. Once they board an airplane and arrive in their new home, fear dissipates, and hope and love welcome them to new surroundings, friends, and snow- the most beautiful thing that the little girl has ever seen.

13.  WHERE WILDFLOWERS GROW by Hà Dinh & Illustrated by Bao Luu- Today Hà and her Vietnamese family are moving from a refugee camp in the Philippines to America and everyone is excited except for Hà .  She doesn’t want to leave her best friend and teacher but learns that like wildflowers, she can keep growing no matter where she goes.

14. HOW MANY DAYS TO AMERICA? A THANKSGIVING STORY by Eve Bunting & Illustrated by Bob Peck- A family leaves their Caribbean island on a tiny fishing boat to find refuge and safety in America. While fear and uncertainty fill the air, hope and thanksgiving quickly fill their hearts as they arrive to safety and a new home.

15. THE DAY WAR CAME by Nicola Davies & Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb- In 2016 when learning that 3,000 child refugees were not allowed to enter the country, Nicola Davies was outraged and decided to write a poem. From this, more artists joined her by drawing chairs to symbolize seats for children in a classroom and hope for the future. The campaign and poem then became this book to help explain the ongoing refugee crisis in our world as it tells the story of what happens to children’s lives when war comes to them and turns everything they love and know into rubble.

16. LA FRONTERA: MY JOURNEY WITH PAPA by Alfredo Alva and Deborah Mills & Illustrated by Claudia Navarro – A little boy and his father make the perilous journey from Mexico to Texas, but they learn to be resilient and brave as they cross the border, la frontera, for a new beginning and a new life.