Powerful stories of the immigrant and refugee experience can help kids understand what people go through when they move to a new country and start new lives. These novels and memoirs for kids 10 and under can help build empathy and sensitivity among readers, and kids from immigrant families can see reflections of their own struggles and triumphs. For more books about the immigrant experience that kids of all ages can enjoy and identify with—from Illegal, a graphic novel that paints a harrowing picture of a refugee crisis, to classics like The Joy Luck Club for older kids—check out the entire list at Common Sense Media.

Carmela Full of Wishes

By Matt de la Peña

This delicate, finely wrought story about a young Latina girl lays out the difficult circumstances of her immigrant family while celebrating her as a kid like any other. 

Recommended for ages 4 and older

 (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018)

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Dreamers

By Yuyi Morales

This is the story of author Yuri Morales’ her own immigrant experience, traveling from her native Mexico to San Francisco, California, with her infant son. In an end note, she makes clear that the book is not about "Dreamers" as we use the word today, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, but in the sense that all immigrants are dreamers, coming to "a new country carried by hope and dreams, and carrying our own special gifts, to build a better future." 

Recommended for ages 4 and older

(Holiday House, 2018)

Mamá the Alien/Mamá la Extraterrestre

By René Colato Laínez 


Mamá the Alien is a cute, bilingual picture book that introduces issues related to immigration, documentation, and citizenship in a warm, lighthearted way for kids as young as preschool.

Recommended for ages 4 and older

(Children's Book Press, 2016)

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter

By Mark Gonzales

A father's advice to his daughter about her mixed indigenous Mexican and Muslim heritage reads as both intensely personal and widely universal, airily poetic and solidly concrete. The book represents Muslim kids and families in a positive light, providing a mirror for Muslim kids, and a window for readers of all backgrounds.

Recommended for ages 4 and older

(Salaam Reads, 2017)

Islandborn

By Junot Diaz

It's not every day that a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist writes a picture book, and this one vibrantly celebrates diversity by mining the author's own Dominican American immigrant experience. 

Recommended for ages 5 and older

(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018)

This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From

By Jamie Lee Curtis 

In This Is Me, an Asian-American teacher describes the journey of her great-grandmother, who came to this country carrying only one small suitcase filled with personal items. This book helps kids dig up their histories and relate them to their own lives and identities in a personally meaningful way.

Recommended for ages 5 and older

(Workman Publishing Co, 2016)

Where Will I Live?

By Rosemary McCarney

This excellent book introduces young kids to the plight of refugees and is brought vividly to life by the photos and faces of very real children who've been affected. 

Recommended for ages 5 and older

(Second Story Press, 2017)

The Day War Came

By Nicola Davies

This moving, haunting story of a young refugee draws its power from its simplicity, as the girl herself tells her own story, observing what's happening around her in ways kids can absorb. The Day War Came is frank and heartbreaking, but gentle. Author Nicola Davies makes clear this kid is like any other.

Recommended for ages 6 and older

(Candlewick Press, 2018)

A Different Pond

By Bao Phi

This tender, masterful family story about a hardworking Vietnamese refugee dad and his son focuses on a simple outing that speaks volumes about their lives and the strong ties that bind them. 

Recommended for ages 6 and older

(Capstone Young Readers, 2017)

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain

By Russell Freedman 

Through photographs, original poems, and interview excerpts, Russell Freedman tells young readers about the experience of immigrants coming through San Francisco's Angel Island during its operation from 1910 to 1940. 

Recommended for ages 9 and older

(Clarion Books, 2014)

The Arrival

By Shaun Tan 

This wordless graphic novel about an immigrant who leaves his troubled country to make a new life for himself is a visual masterpiece.

Recommended for ages 9 and older

(Arthur A. Levine, 2007)

Front Desk

By Kelly Yang

Loosely based on Kelly Yang's experience growing up as an immigrant in America, this powerful, moving tale highlights the importance of tolerance and diversity, making it a must-read for kids. Front Desk takes place in the early '90s, but many of the heartbreaking stories mentioned in the book are still a reality for immigrants and minorities today.

Recommended for ages 9 and older

(Arthur A. Levine, 2018)

The Only Road

By Alexandra Diaz 

As two teenage cousins take the perilous journey from Guatemala to the U.S., this harrowing, heartfelt tale brings to life the plight of thousands of young refugees and the dangers they face.

Recommended for ages 9 and older

(Simon & Schuster, 2016)

Refugee

By Alan Gratz

This ambitious, harrowing page-turner is chock-full of historical information, and it succeeds in providing a vivid window onto the lives of three fictional child refugees from different time periods and settings: 1938 Berlin, 1994 Cuba, and 2015 Syria. 

Recommended for ages 10 and older

(Scholastic Press, 2017)

Shooting Kabul

By N. H. Senzai

This novel about an 11-year-old Afghan immigrant will give readers of all ages sensitive insight into the hardships immigrants experience in their daily lives, especially those seeking asylum from oppressive cultures. And, they will be reminded of how the 9/11 terrorist attacks made the lives of Muslim immigrants even harder.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

(Paula Wiseman, 2011)

Feature photo: iStock