10 books to help children understand war and refugees

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With everything going on in the world at the moment it's hard to strike the right balance between informing children of what's going on, without terrifying them. But we have a responsibility not to shield children 100% from what is going on either, because it's an important opportunity to empathise with other children and understand why refugees need our support and not our hate. Here are 10 books to help open up important conversations about war, refugees and displacement.

Toppsta
2022-03-16
10 books to help children understand war and refugees
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The Bone Sparrow

Winner of the CILIP Amnesty Honour 2017.
Shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize
and the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017.

Perfect for fans of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS. This is a beautiful, vivid and deeply moving story about a refugee boy who has spent his entire life living in a detention centre. This novel reminds us all of the importance of freedom, hope, and the power of a story to speak for anyone who's ever struggled to find a safe home.

'...a special book' - Morris Gleitzman, author of the acclaimed ONCE series


Born in a refugee camp, all Subhi knows of the world is that he's at least 19 fence diamonds high, the nice Jackets never stay long, and at night he dreams that the sea finds its way to his tent, bringing with it unusual treasures. And one day it brings him Jimmie.

Carrying a notebook that she's unable to read and wearing a sparrow made out of bone around her neck - both talismans of her family's past and the mother she's lost - Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence.

As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie's family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures.

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The Day War Came

A powerful and necessary picture book - the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known. Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey - all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious... When the government refused to allow 3000 child refugees to enter this country in 2016, Nicola Davies was so angry she wrote a poem. It started a campaign for which artists contributed drawings of chairs, symbolising a seat in a classroom, education, kindness, the hope of a future. The poem has become this book, movingly illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, which should prove a powerful aid for explaining the ongoing refugee crisis to younger readers. GBP1 from every copy sold goes to the charity Help Refugees - find out more about their wonderful work at their website, helprefugees.org.

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Boy, Everywhere

This debut middle-grade novel chronicles the harrowing journey taken by Sami and his family from privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a comfortable life in Damascus, via a smuggler's den in Turkey, to a prison in Manchester. A story of survival, of family, of bravery ... In a world where we are told to see refugees as the 'other', this story will remind readers that 'they' are also 'us'.

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Saving the Butterfly: A story about refugees

A poetic, powerful story about a little brother and a big sister finding a new home and new hope after being rescued from a boat lost in the dark sea.
A little brother and his big sister try their best to settle in a new home, where they have nothing left from before except each other. The little one makes new friends and quickly learns to laugh again but his sister remains haunted by the shadows of their past and hides away in their broken house. Trying to help his sister, the little one catches a butterfly for her and brings it inside the house. His sister knows that she needs to set the butterfly free ... but that would mean going outside. In taking the first steps to face her fears and save the butterfly, she also begins the process of saving herself.

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No Ballet Shoes in Syria

Winner of the Books Are My Bag Readers Award Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves and to find Aya's father - separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. With beautiful, captivating writing, wonderfully authentic ballet detail, and an important message championing the rights of refugees, this is classic storytelling - filled with warmth, hope and humanity. "Wise and kind and unputdownable." - Hilary McKay, Costa Book Prize-winning author of The Skylarks' War "A perfect balance of tragedy and triumph." - Natasha Farrant, author of The Children of Castle Rock "A moving story about one of the big issues of our time, told with wonderful clarity, and incredibly touching." - Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo "A moving, textured story ... Ballet Shoes for the 21st century" - The Times

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The Journey

". . . a wonderful teaching tool for those who are welcoming refugees into their community."- The New York Times

With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

From the author: The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms "migrants" and "refugees" but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.

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When Stars are Scattered

A heart-wrenching true story about life in a Kenyan refugee camp that will restore your faith in real-life happy endings. Omar and his brother Hassan, two Somali boys, have spent a long time in the Dadaab refugee camp. Separated from their mother, they are looked after by a friendly stranger. Life in the camp isn't always easy. The hunger is constant . . . but there's football to look forward to, and now there's a chance Omar will get to go to school . . . With a heart-wrenching fairytale ending, this incredible true story is brought to life by Victoria's stunning illustrations. This book perfectly depicts life in a refugee camp for 8-12 year olds. 'Does everything one can ask of a book, and then some.' Kirkus 'Fantastic graphic novel.' The New York Times Book Review 'Sensitive and poignant.' School Library Journal 'Not to be missed.' Booklist

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My Name is Not Refugee

A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too. A powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make. From the winner of the V&A Student Illustration Award 2016.

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The Boy At the Back of the Class

A World Book Day 2020 Author

WINNER OF THE BLUE PETER BOOK AWARD 2019
WINNER OF THE WATERSTONES CHILDREN'S BOOK PRIZE 2019
SHORTLISTED FOR THE JHALAK PRIZE 2019

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. . .

With beautiful illustrations by Pippa Curnick

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The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition

'One of the greatest books of the century' - Guardian

'Hiding...where would we hide?... Margot and I started packing our most important belongings into a satchel. The first thing I stuck in was this diary...'

In July 1942 thirteen-year-old Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the horrors of Nazi occupation, went into hiding in an Amsterdam warehouse. Over the next two years Anne vividly describes in her diary the frustrations of living in such confined quarters.

This unabridged, definitive text reveals Anne's innermost thoughts and feelings as she grows up, and provides a deeply moving true-life story that comes to an abrupt and tragic end.

Contains an Afterword, chronology of events and glossary of terms.

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