Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Refugees: Their Stories

Refugees: Their Stories

An immigrant is a person who leaves his or her home country to work, study or live in a new country. Sometimes people are immigrants to get an education that is not available in their home country. Sometimes people immigrate to do a particular job or to live in a country whose customs and laws are different than their home country.

A special kind of immigrant is a refugee. Their reasons for leaving their home country are different. A refugee is a person who is fleeing his or her home country to escape danger, like a war, or to escape persecution. Persecution is being hurt based on your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group or having a particular political opinion. The United States welcomes many immigrants each year to live and work and study, as well as giving refuge to people who have fled their home country for their own safety. 

The Journey is a story that will help you understand what it is like to have to leave everything you know behind to start over somewhere new.  Below are more books written by, or about, refugees. By reading these books you can live for just a little while, in their experience. I did not grow up afraid. I did not have to worry about living in a war zone, being hurt or being persecuted. I also didn’t want to think about having to move and change schools, let alone thinking about starting a whole new life somewhere and having to learn a new language and new customs and meet all new people. I don’t know what that’s like because I never had to do it. These stories help me see the challenges that refugees face starting a new life – kids facing anxiety and fear and danger with courage. Sometimes you meet new friends in person. Sometimes you meet them in books. Here are some kids I think you will be proud to know.


Non-Fiction:

adrift-at-seaAdrift at Sea: a Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival – Tuan and his family survive bullets, a broken motor, and a leaking boat in the long days they spend at sea after fleeing Vietnam. A true story as told to the author by Tuan Ho. Includes family photographs and a historical note about the Vietnamese crisis.


immigrants-and-refugeesImmigrants and Refugees – Describes current patterns of migration around the world, including the causes and effects of immigration and emigration.


the-journey-that-saved-curious-georgeThe Journey That Saved Curious George: the True Wartime Ecape of Margret and H.A. Rey – In 1940, Hans and Margret Rey fled their Paris home as the German army advanced. They began their harrowing journey on bicycles, pedaling to Southern France with children’s book manuscripts, including what would become the international sensation “Curious George,” among their few possessions. This is their dramatic story.


out-of-iraqOut of Iraq Refugees’ Stories in Words, Paintings & Music – Out of Iraq tells the stories of a number of Iraqi refugee families that have made Syria their home over the 5 years since the war in Iraq began. This book tells the stories of their flight from Iraq, the memories of home in the ‘good old days’ and their continued courage living as refugees.


a-song-for-cambodiaA Song for Cambodia – A biography of Arn Chorn-Pond who, as a young boy in 1970s Cambodia, survived the Khmer Rouge killing fields because of his skill on the khim, a traditional instrument, and later went on to help heal others and revive Cambodian music and culture.


Stories:

josephs-big-rideJoseph’s Big Ride – A refugee boy’s determination to ride a bicycle leads to an unexpected friendship.


teacupTeacup – A boy travels across the sea in a rowboat in search of a new home, making a journey that is long and difficult–but also filled with beauty and hope.


calling-the-water-drumCalling the Water Drum – A young boy loses both parents as they attempt to flee Haiti for a better life, and afterward is only able to process his grief and communicate with the outside world through playing the drums.



brothers-in-hope

Brothers in Hope: the Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
– Eight-year-old Garang, orphaned by a civil war in Sudan, finds the inner strength to help lead other boys as they trek hundreds of miles seeking safety in Ethiopia, then Kenya, and finally in the United States.


four-feet-two-sandalsFour Feet Two Sandals – Two young Afghani girls living in a refugee camp in Pakistan share a precious pair of sandals brought by relief workers.


the-color-of-homeThe Color of Home – Hassan, newly-arrived in the United States and feeling homesick, paints a picture at school that shows his old home in Somalia as well as the reason his family had to leave.


how-i-learned-geographyHow I Learned Geography – As he spends hours studying his father’s world map, a young boy escapes the hunger and misery of refugee life. Based on the author’s childhood in Kazakhstan, where he lived as a Polish refugee during World War II. Newbery Honor Book


when-i-get-olderWhen I Get Older – A Somali-Canadian poet, rapper, singer and songwriter tells his own story about leaving war-torn Somalia as a child, growing up in Canada and creating a hit song that touched millions of people around the world with its powerful message of hope.


how-many-days-to-america-a-thanksgiving-storyHow Many Days to America: a Thanksgiving Story – Refugees from a Caribbean island embark on a dangerous boat trip to America where they have a special reason to celebrate Thanksgiving.


oskar-and-the-eight-blessings

Oskar and the Eight Blessings – A young Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany arrives in New York City on the seventh night of Hanukkah and receives small acts of kindness while exploring the city.


the-journeyThe Journey – What is it like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? A mother and is two brothers away to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation. But when the boys get to Miami, they are thrust into a world where bullies seem to run rampant and it’s not always clear how best to protect themselves.


refugeRefuge – A retelling of the nativity story from a perspective emphasizing the struggle of Mary and Joseph as refugee.


stepping-stonesStepping Stones – In this picture book, a young girl and her family are forced to flee their village to escape the civil war that has engulfed Syria and make their way toward freedom in Europe.


bamboo-peopleBamboo People – Two Burmese boys, one a Karenni refugee and the other the son of an imprisoned Burmese doctor, meet in the jungle and in order to survive they must learn to trust each other. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2012-2013, 6-8 Nominee.


home-of-the-braveHome of the Brave – Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2009-2010, 6-8 Nominee.


inside-out-and-back-againInside Out and Back Again – Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama. National Book Award Winner; Young Hoosier Book Award, 2013-2014, 4-6 Nominee; Newbery Honor Book


a-long-walk-to-waterA Long Walk to Water – When the Sudanese civil war reaches his village in 1985, eleven-year-old Salva becomes separated from his family and must walk with other Dinka tribe members through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of safe haven. Based on the life of Salva Dut, who, after emigrating to America in 1996, began a project to dig water wells in Sudan. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2012-2013, 6-8 Nominee.


the-only-roadThe Only Road – Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous journey from his home in Guatemala to his older brother in New Mexico after his cousin is murdered by a drug cartel.


the-red-pencilThe Red Pencil – After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder.


serafinas-promiseSerafina’s Promise – In a poor village outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Serafina works hard to help her family, but dreams of going to school and becoming a doctor–then the earthquake hits and Serafina must summon all her courage to find her father and still get medicine for her sick baby brother as she promisedYoung Hoosier Book Award, 2016-2017, 4-6 Nominee.


shooting-kabulShooting Kabul – Escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, eleven-year-old Fadi and his family immigrate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fadi schemes to return to the Pakistani refugee camp where his little sister was accidentally left behind. Cybil Award for Middle Grade Nomination 2010.

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Immigrant Stories

Immigrant Stories

Here are some favorite books that will give you a chance to walk in the shoes of someone coming to America from somewhere new. You will meet some good friends in these stories. They are so strong and brave! Many of the stories are based on real people, often the author or a relative of the author.

anna-and-solomon_1Anna and Solomon – Based on the story of the author’s grandparents’ migration to the United States from late-nineteenth-century Russia, shares how Solomon moved to the U.S. first, where he worked to save money for Anna to join him.


cora-cooks-pancit_1Cora Cooks Pancit – When all her older siblings are away, Cora’s mother finally lets her help make pancit, a Filipino noodle dish. Includes recipe for pancit.


the-day-of-the-pelicanThe Day of the Pelican – In 1998 when the Kosovo hostilities escalate, thirteen-year-old Meli’s life as an ethnic Albanian, changes forever after her brother escapes his Serbian captors and the entire family flees from one refugee camp to another until they are able to immigrate to America.


drita-my-homegirlDrita My Homegirl – When ten-year-old Drita and her family, refugees from Kosovo, move to New York, Drita is teased about not speaking English well, but after a popular student named Maxine is forced to learn about Kosovo as a punishment for teasing Drita, the two girls soon bond.


esperanza-risingEsperanza Rising – Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression. Disponible en español: Esperanza Renace, Pura Belpré medal winner for narrative, 2002.


four-feet-two-sandals_1Four Feet Two Sandals – Two young Afghani girls living in a refugee camp in Pakistan share a precious pair of sandals brought by relief workers.


going-home_1Going Home  Although a Mexican family comes to the United States to work as farm laborers so that their children will have opportunities, the parents still consider Mexico their home.


grandfathers-journey_1Grandfather’s Journey – A Japanese American man recounts his grandfather’s journey to America which he later also undertakes, and the feelings of being torn by a love for two different countries. Caldecott Medal Winner, 1994.


heart-of-a-samurai_2Heart of a Samurai – In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a terrible shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro, who dreams of becoming a, learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2013-2014, 4-6 Nominee.


home-of-the-brave_1Home of the Brave – Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2009-2010, 6-8 Nominee.


im-new-here_1I’m New Here – Three children from other countries (Somalia, Guatemala, and Korea) struggle to adjust to their new home and school in the United States.


in-the-year-of-the-boar-and-jackie-robinsonIn the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson – In 1947, a Chinese child comes to Brooklyn where she becomes Americanized at school, in her apartment building, and by her love for baseball.


kiki-and-jacquesKiki and Jacques – Eleven-year-old Jacques, who must contend with difficult family dynamics and pressure from an older boy to help him commit a crime, is surprised to discover that he has much in common with Kiki, one of the many new Somali refugees who have immigrated to his Maine town.


it-aint-so-awful-falafelIt’s Ain’t So Awful Falafel – Eleven-year-old Zomorod, originally from Iran, tells her story of growing up Iranian in Southern California during the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis of the late 1970s.


just-like-meJust Like Me – In this story about unlikely friendships and finding your place in the world, three very different girls, adopted as babies from the same Chinese orphanage, spend a week at a summer camp, where the adoption agency coordinator wants them to journal their “bonding” experience.


the-keeping-quilt_1
The Keeping Quilt – A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith.

 


kira-kiraKira Kira – Chronicles the close friendship between two Japanese-American sisters growing up in rural Georgia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the despair when one sister becomes terminally ill. Newbery Medal Winner, 2005.


the-land-of-forgotten-girlsThe Land of Forgotten Girls – Abandoned by their father and living in poverty with their heartless stepmother in Louisiana, two sisters from the Philippines, twelve-year-old Sol and six-year-old Ming, learn the true meaning of family.


landed_1Landed – After leaving his village in southeastern China, twelve-year-old Sun is held at Angel Island, San Francisco, before being released to join his father, a merchant living in the area. Includes historical notes.


A Long Walk ta-long-walk-to-water_2o Water – When the Sudanese civil war reaches his village in 1985, eleven-year-old Salva becomes separated from his family and must walk with other Dinka tribe members through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of safe haven. Based on the life of Salva Dut, who, after emigrating to America in 1996, began a project to dig water wells in Sudan. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2012-2013, 6-8 Nominee.


mariama-different-but-just-the-same_1Mariama Different But Just the Same – Everything’s new for Mariama after a long journey by car, train, boat, and plane from Africa. She’s going to discover a world where the streets, her school, and the food are all different. But what about the people?  Disponible en español: Mariama: Diferente Pero Igual


the-matchbox-diaryThe Matchbox Diary – An elderly man shares his story of coming to America with his great granddaughter. Since he did not know how to read or write when he was younger, he created a diary by keeping items inside matchboxes. Together, they open each one like you would a book and learn about where the man came from and his new life in the United States. Disponible en español: El Diario de las Cajas de Fósforos


miss-bridie-chose-a-shovel_1Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel Miss – Bridie emigrates to America in 1856 and chooses to bring a shovel, which proves to be a useful tool throughout her life.  Young Hoosier Book Award, 2007-2008, K-3 Nominee.


mollys-pilgrim_1Molly’s Pilgrim – Told to make a Pilgrim doll for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly is embarrassed when her mother tries to help her out by creating a doll dressed as she herself was dressed before leaving Russia to seek religious freedom.


90-days-to-havana_190 Miles to Havana – When unrest hits the streets of Havana, Cuba, Julian’s parents must make the heartbreaking decision tosend him and his two brothers away to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation. But when the boys get to Miami, they are thrust into a world where bullies seem to run rampant and it’s not always clear how best to protect themselves.


a-piece-of-homeA Piece of Home – A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close.



the-red-pencil_1

The Red Pencil
– After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder.


return-to-senderReturn to Sender – After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.
Pura Belpré Award for narrative, 2010. Disponible en español: Devolver al Remitente


save-me-a-seatSave Me a Seat – Ravi has just moved to the United States from India and has always been at the top of his class; Joe has lived in the same town his whole life and has learning problems–but when their lives intersect in the first week of fifth grade they are brought together by a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and the need to take control of their lives.



serafinas-promise_1

Serafina’s Promise
– In a poor village outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Serafina works hard to help her family, but dreams of going to school and becoming a doctor–then the earthquake hits and Serafina must summon all her courage to find her father and still get medicine for her sick baby brother as she promised. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2016-2017, 4-6 Nominee.


shooting-kabulShooting Kabul – Escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, eleven-year-old Fadi and his family immigrate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fadi schemes to return to the Pakistani refugee camp where his little sister was accidentally left behind.


somewhere-amongSomewhere Among – Eleven-year-old Emma’s life in Tokyo changes for the worse when she and her American mother, who is pregnant, must move in with her Japanese grandmother the summer before 9/11 changes the world.



the-turtle-of-oman_1

The Turtle of Oman
– When Aref, a third-grader who lives in Muscat, Oman, refuses to pack his suitcase and prepare to move to Michigan, his mother asks for help from his grandfather, his Siddi, who takes Aref around the country, storing up memories he can carry with him to a new home.


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Tell Us About a Book You Liked: Patriots, Redcoats & Spies

Tell Us About a Book You Liked: Patriots, Redcoats & Spies

When Revolutionary War patriot Lamberton Clark is shot by the British, he enlists the help of his twin fourteen-year-old sons, John and Ambrose, to get a secret letter to General George Washington.

Rob says:

The year – 1777

The war – the American Revolution

The secret weapon – twin boys

When Revolutionary War Patriot Lamberton Clark is shot by British soldiers while on a mission for the Continental Army, he has only two hopes of getting the secret message he’s carrying to General George Washington: his 14-year-old twin boys John and Ambrose.

Upon discovering that their father is a spy in the Culper Spy Ring, the boys accept their mission without a clue about what they may be up against. They set off from Connecticut to New Jersey to find General Washington, but the road to the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army is full of obstacles; including the man who shot their father who is hot on their trail.

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Staff Pick: One Came Home

Staff Pick: One Came Home

Once Came Home

In 1871 Wisconsin, thirteen-year-old Georgia sets out to find her sister Agatha, presumed dead when remains are found wearing the dress she was last seen in, and before the end of the year gains fame as a sharpshooter and foiler of counterfeiters.

Georgie Burkhardt, of 1871 Lake Placid, Wisconsin is a 13-year old girl of epic proportions. The story begins with Georgie learning that a body of a young woman has been found. Everyone believes that it is Agatha Burkhardt, Georgie’s older sister. Georgie refuses to believe the facts that are presented and goes off on an adventure, taking her trusty rifle and a copy of The Prairie Traveler.  On her trip she meets up with a stubborn mule, her sister’s pesky ex-boyfriend, nesting pigeons, a cougar, and counterfeiters. Tracking every clue and piece of evidence along the way, Georgie is determined to bring her sister home.

Recommended By: Kimberly Andersen – West Indianapolis Branch

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This Means War

This Means War

The Means War

Juliet and Lowell are best friends. Well, until this year, when Lowell started hanging out with Mike, Tommy & Bruce doing things they are sure a girly girl won’t like. Juliet is so mad at Lowell – her FORMER best friend.  She finds some kindred spirits in Patsy, Annette, & Linda. The other girls are none too happy about being labelled scaredy-cat sissies either who only have tea parties and won’t get dirty.

The kids get in a verbal war over just what “girl stuff” and “boy stuff” is. The boys are sure that “girl stuff” means painting fingernails, NOT go-carts. The girls think they can paint anything, including go-carts.

Juliet: “We ride bikes and we play baseball and we run just as fast as boys do.”

Patsy: “You don’t know what you’re talking about! Girls can do anything boys can do! At least I can!” (page 59)

The kids agree on a nine day contest, boys versus girls. Each day is a different challenge and whichever side wins the most challenges wins the contest. As the days go by the challenges get harder and harder; the kids daring each other to push themselves to the edge of their abilities…and their courage. Author: Ellen Wittlinger

Here are some more books about battles between boys and girls. This Means War takes place in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis…a time when two countries, the U.S. and Russia, were locked in a similar battle of wills. Countdown is about kids during this time too – also a very good story.
Bobby vs. Girls The Boys Start the War The Girls Get Even Countdown
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