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Nov 21 2018

Where We Came From, Where We’re Going: 11 Picture Books About Immigration

by Elisabeth H

Picture books about immigration and refugees allow us to experience the feelings of fear, courage, and hope that are part of the journey from one’s homeland to a new country. In these 11 picture books, young protagonists find themselves leaving old lands and journeying to new ones, where hope and promise live side-by-side with memories of what has been left behind.

We Came to America by Faith Ringgold

Award-winning author-illustrator Faith Ringgold offers a timely look at the diverse makeup and backgrounds of the American people and celebrates the country’s diverse immigrant heritage. Ringgold’s poetic text and vibrant art affirm the message that diversity enriches us all.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Other students laugh when Rigoberto, an immigrant from Venezuela, introduces himself. But later, he meets Angelina and discovers that he is not the only one who feels like an outsider. A beautiful and inclusive story that encourages children to find the beauty in their own lives and share it with the world.

Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay

A young boy named Mustafa has traveled a long way to this country from his old one, where the trees were dusty and gray and there was not a lot of extra food. Here, he visits a park near his new home and finds beautiful flowers, ladybugs, fall leaves, and finally, a friend.

Islandborn by Junot Díaz

Lola was just a baby when her family left the Island. When she has to draw it for a school assignment, she asks her family, friends, and neighbors about their memories of her homeland. However, their memories of home are not all happy – there is also a remembrance of struggles.

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

When Juan Felipe Herrera was very young, he picked flowers, helped his mama feed the chickens, slept under the starry sky, and learned to say goodbye to his amiguitos each time his migrant family moved on. When he grew up, he became a poet. This beautifully illustrated poem encourages children to imagine all that they might one day be.

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

A Japanese-American man recounts his grandfather’s journey to America, which he later undertakes himself. He also describes the feeling of being torn by a love for two different countries. The immigrant experience has rarely been so poignantly evoked.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

In warm, sparkling prose that moves easily from English to Spanish and back, Caldecott Honor artist Morales traces the journey that she and her small son took in 1994, when they emigrated from Mexico to the United States. Many books about immigration describe the process of making new friends and fitting in; this one describes what it’s like to become a creative being in two languages, and to learn to love in both.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

This beautiful tale about a father and son’s fishing trip in Minneapolis shows the interconnectedness of family. The story, told from the boy’s perspective, begins when his father wakes him before dawn. Although the child enjoys the outing as a special adventure, they are fishing for food, not sport. The quiet time together provides opportunities for the father to talk about his long-ago life in Vietnam.

Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias

A child fleeing conflict walks across the desert, recalling the home he left behind and promising to return to it someday. As he walks, the simple and poetic text brings readers along on this heartbreaking journey: “I walk, and my footsteps leave a trace of ancient stories, the songs of my homeland, and the smell of tea and bread, jasmine and earth.”

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

What is it like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? In this beautiful, powerful book, a mother and her two children set out on such a journey – a journey filled with fear of the unknown, but also great hope for what lies ahead.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

The story recounts the author’s great-grandmother’s arrival in this country from Eastern Europe. Her dress and babushka become part of a quilt that is been handed down from generation to generation. This book is most notable for the family traditions and the changes that it describes, and for the intergenerational love it portrays.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Shantrice W December 4, 2018 at 11:39 AM

Interesting post. I read “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang this summer. It’s a juvenile fiction book that I think would be great for family discussions about sensitive topics. Some of the situations in the story are based on the author’s childhood experiences.

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