Refugee Week is an annual festival held in the UK which celebrates the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.
In celebration of Refugee Week, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite books that will offer children and young people the chance to learn, think and start conversations to understand the experience of refugees, both during Refugee Week and beyond.
Some of the content featured in these books may be upsetting for some readers. Please be aware of individuals who may have experienced trauma through having to flee their country. We advise always reading the text before sharing it with children.
Written by Alexis Deacon, published by Penguin Random House
Beegu is not supposed to be on Earth. She is lost. She is a friendly little creature, but the Earth People don’t seem very welcoming at all. However, so far she has only met the BIG ones. The little ones are a different matter…
This is the story of a bird that fits in your hand flying halfway around the world looking for a place to nest. This is the story of a young girl from northern Africa fleeing halfway around the world looking for a place of peace.
This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.
Written by Chris Maylor-Ballesteros, published by Nosy Crow
When a strange-looking animal arrives pulling a big suitcase, the other animals are curious. What on earth could be inside that suitcase? A teacup? Maybe. A table and chair? Perhaps. A whole home and hillside with trees? This stranger must be fibbing! But when the animals break into the suitcase and discover a very special photograph, they begin to understand what the strange creature has been through, and together they create a very special welcome present…
Wisp: A Story of Hope
Written by Zana Fraillon, illustrated by Grahame Baker Smith, published by Hachette Children’s Group
Idris is a child refugee, born into a world of tents and fences. He has known no other life than this. He has no memories of the world outside.
Then the Wisp arrives, floating in on the evening breeze. Everyone who holds it finds their memories reawakened, their hopes of freedom reborn. But what about Idris, who has no memories?
What will happen when he holds the magical Wisp?
Azzi In Between
Written by Sarah Garland, published by Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd
Azzi and her parents are in danger. They have to leave their home and escape to another country on a frightening journey by car and boat. In the new country they must learn to speak a new language, find a new home and Azzi must start a new school. With a kind helper at the school, Azzi begins to learn English and understand that she is not the only one who has had to flee her home. She makes a new friend, and with courage and resourcefulness, begins to adapt to her new life. But Grandma has been left behind and Azzi misses her more than anything. Will Azzi ever see her grandma again?
Drawing on her own experience of working among refugee families, renowned author and illustrator Sarah Garland tells, with tenderness and humour, an exciting adventure story to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Written by Michaela and Elaine DePrince, illustrated by Ella Okstad, published by Faber & Faber
At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.
Beautifully and gently illustrated by Ella Okstad, Ballerina Dreams is the younger-reader edition of Michaela DePrince’s highly moving memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe.
Lubna and Pebble
Written by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egneus, published by Oxford University Press
In an unforgettable story that subtly addresses the refugee crisis, a young girl must decide if friendship means giving up the one item that gives her comfort during a time of utter uncertainty.
Lubna’s best friend is a pebble. She found it on the beach when they arrived in the night, then she fell asleep in Daddy’s salty arms. Lubna tells Pebble everything. About home. About her brothers. About the war. Pebble always listens to her stories and smiles when she feels afraid. But when a lost little boy arrives in the World of Tents, Lubna understands that he needs Pebble even more than she does …
The Silence Seeker
Written by Ben Morley, illustrated by Carl Pearce, Published by Penguin Random House Children’s UK
When a new family moves in next door, Joe’s mum explains that they are asylum seekers. Joe hears that they are silence seekers, especially as Mum adds that they need peace and quiet. When he sees a young boy from the family sitting disconsolately on the steps, Joe decides to help him find a quiet place in the noisy and chaotic city. A simple, moving story which is the perfect way to gently open discussion around the refugee crisis.
Running on the Roof of the World
Written by Jess Butterworth, published by Hachette Children’s Group
Join 12-year-old Tash and her best friend Sam in a story of adventure, survival and hope, set in the vivid Himalayan landscape of Tibet and India. Filled with friendship, love and courage, this young girl’s thrilling journey to save her parents is an ideal read for children aged 9-12.
Tash has to follow many rules to survive in Tibet, a country occupied by Chinese soldiers. But when a man sets himself on fire in protest and soldiers seize Tash’s parents, she and her best friend Sam must break the rules. They are determined to escape Tibet – and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself in India.
And so, with a backpack of Tash’s father’s mysterious papers and two trusty yaks by their side, their extraordinary journey across the mountains begins.
Written by Michael Morpurgo, published by HarperCollins Publishers
A powerful novel from Michael Morpurgo, the nation’s favourite storyteller…
Never have Aman and his mother needed a friend more than when a Springer Spaniel appears – thin and war-ravaged – in the mouth of their Afghan cave. Nursed back to health by Aman, the dog becomes a constant companion, a shadow, and that’s what Aman decides to call her.
But life in Afghanistan becomes more dangerous by the moment. Eventually, Aman, his mother and Shadow find the courage to embark upon the treacherous journey from war-torn Afghanistan to the safely of a relative’s home in Manchester, England.
But how far can Shadow lead them? And in this terrifying new world, is anywhere really safe…?
The Boy At the Back of the Class
Written by Onjali Q. Rauf, illustrated by Pippa Curnick, published by Hachette Children’s Group
Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.
There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.
He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!
But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.
That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan. . .
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Written by Judith Kerr, published by HarperCollins Publishers
Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in it any longer, and you found, to your surprise, that your own father was one of those people. This is what happened to Anna in 1933.
Anna is too busy with her schoolwork and tobogganing to listen to the talk of Hitler. But one day she and her brother Max are rushed out of Germany in alarming secrecy, away from everything they know. Their father is wanted by the Nazis. This is the start of a huge adventure, sometimes frightening, very often funny and always exciting.
Judith Kerr wrote When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit fifty years ago, based on her own journey, so that her own children would know where she came from and the lengths to which her parents went to keep her and her brother safe. It has gone on to become a beloved classic that is required reading for many children all over the world and is an unforgettable introduction to the real-life impact of the Second World War.
Who are Refugees and Migrants? What Makes People Leave their Homes? And Other Big Questions
Written by Michael Rosen and AnneMarie Young, published by Hachette Children’s Group
What does it mean for people to have to leave their homes, and what happens when they seek entry to another country?
This book explores the history of refugees and migration around the world and the effects on people of never-ending war and conflict. It compares the effects on society of diversity and interculturalism with historical attempts to create a racially ‘pure’ culture. It takes an international perspective, and offers a range of views from people who have personal experience of migration, including the campaigners Meltem Avcil and Muzoon Almellehan, the comedian and actor Omid Djalili and the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. Aimed at young people aged 10 and upwards, the book encourages readers to think for themselves about the issues involved. There is also a role-play activity asking readers to imagine themselves in the situation of having to decide whether to leave their homes and seek refuge in a new country.
Written by A. M. Dassu, published by Old Barn Books
13 Year-old Sami loves his friends, football, PlayStation and iPad. But a bombing in a shopping mall changes his life. Sami and his family flee their comfortable home in Damascus to make the perilous and painful journey towards a new life in the UK.
Leaving everything behind, Sami discovers a world he’d never encountered – harsh, dangerous, but also at times unexpectedly kind and hopeful.
Written by Alan Gratz, published by Scholastic
This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.
JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…
ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America…
MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe… All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge.
All will face unimaginable dangers – from drownings to bombings to betrayals.
But there is always the hope of tomorrow.
And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.
Written by Benjamin Zephaniah, published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Life is not safe for Alem. His father is Ethopian, his mother Eritrean. Their countries are at war, and Alem is welcome in neither place. So Alem is excited to spend a holiday in London with his father – until he wakes up to find him gone.
Written by Pooja Puri, published by Bonnier Books Ltd
Mico has left his family, his home, his future. Setting out in search of a better life, he instead finds himself navigating one of the world’s most inhospitable environments – the Jungle. For Mico, just one of many ‘unaccompanied children’, the Calais refugee camp has a wildness, a brutality all of its own.
A melting pot of characters, cultures, and stories, the Jungle often seems like its own strange world. But despite his ambitions to escape, Mico is unable to buy his way out from the ‘Ghost Men’ – the dangerous men with magic who can cross borders unnoticed. Alone, desperate, and running out of options, the idea of jumping onto a speeding train to the UK begins to feel worryingly appealing.
But when Leila arrives at the camp one day, everything starts to change. Outspoken, gutsy, and fearless, she shows Mico that hope and friendship can grow in the most unusual places, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll show you the way out as well.