Children's and YA Books about Refugees and Resettlement Camps

Children around the world seek refuge because of war, famine, persecution, and other horrors. Others are waiting in or forced to move to resettlement camps. Thanks to librarian Analine Johnson of Rodolfo Centeno Elementary School in Laredo, Texas and the child_lit listserv, here's a list of books illuminating their experiences, past and present, categorized by grade levels:

Lower Elementary
  • How Many Days To America? by Eve Bunting
  • So Far From The Sea by Eve Bunting
  • Rebekkah's Journey by Ann Burg
  • Dia's Story Cloth by Dia Cha
  • The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland
  • The Roses In My Carpets by Rukhsana Khan
  • Chachaji's Cup by Uma Krishnaswami
  • The Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai
  • Ziba Came On A Boat by Liz Lofthouse
  • Home and Away by John Marsden
  • Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
  • Passage To Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki
  • The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley
  • Hamzat's Journey by Anthony Robinson
  • Angel Child, Dragon Child by Michele Maria Surat
  • The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida
  • Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
  • Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen
Upper Elementary
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
  • Christophe's Story by Nikki Cornwell
  • Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman
  • Girl Underground by Morris Gleitzman
  • Lucky Baseball: My Story In A Japanese-American Internment Camp by Suzanne Lieurance
  • A Song for Cambodia by Michelle Lord
  • Lost For Words by Elizabeth Lutzeier
  • Half Spoon of Rice by Icy Smith
  • Brothers In Hope: The Story Of The Lost Boys Of Sudan by Mary Williams
Grades 5-9
  • All The Broken Pieces by Ann Burg
  • Give Me Shelter by Nikki Cornwell
  • The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
  • Mud City by Deborah Ellis
  • Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis
  • Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipović
  • Warriors In The Crossfire by Nancy Bo Flood
  • The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez
  • Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
  • The Clay Marble by Minfong Ho
  • A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
  • The Storyteller's Beads by Jane Kurtz
  • The Return by Sonia Levitin
  • Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
  • Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong
  • Good Night, Maman by Norma Fox Mazer
  • The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson
  • Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino
  • Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
  • The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
  • Tangled Threads by Peggy Deitz Shea
  • Whispering Cloth by Peggy Deitz Shea
  • Anna is Still Here by Ida Vos
  • Hide and Seek by Ida Vos
  • The Kingdom by the Sea by Robert Westall
  • One Day We Had to Run by Sybella Wilkes
High School
  • Under the Domim Tree by Gila Almagor
  • Two Suns in the Sky by Miriam Bat-Ami
  • Children of the River by Linda Crew
  • Suitcase Sefton and the American Dream by Jay Feldman
  • Libertad by Alma Fullerton
  • No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel
  • Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
  • Finikin of the Rock by Marlina Marchetta
  • Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera
  • A Pocket Full of Seeds by Marilyn Sachs
  • Abe in Arms by Pegi Deitz Shea
  • Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town by Warren St. John
  • Faraway Home by Marilyn Taylor
  • Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
  • Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

Suggestions? Additions? Corrections? Kindly leave them in the comments and I'll make the changes.


If you're including high school books on this list, Pegi Deitz Shea has a new novel about a Liberian boy, adopted by an African-American family, and on the cusp of adulthood tormented by the demons of his past. It's called ABE IN ARMS and is published by a new small press, PM Press.

My 2009 YA novel GRINGOLANDIA, also published by the small press Curbstone Press, depicts a 17-year-old Chilean refugee and his family in the United States, living with the aftermath of his father's imprisonment and torture under the Pinochet dictatorship. It has received a number of distinctions and awards and was just recommended in School Library Journal's list of books about culture clash, immigrants, and refugees (5/1/10 issue).
Charlotte said…
One of my favorites is The Silver Sword, by Ian Serraillier -- a family of Polish children journey across Germany at the end of WW II to a chidren's refugee settlement in Switzerland.
Mitali Perkins said…
Thanks, I added your suggestions.
Holly said…
Another one for grades 5-9 is THE CLAY MARBLE by Minfong Ho.
Sarah Louise said…
One about Cambodian refugees, that has always stayed with me, is Linda Crew's book (high school) "Children of the River." I visited her website to make sure I got title, subject, author correct and found wonderful story that I think you will delight in:

Holocaust Dutch returning to normalcy: (I guess middle grades)

Anna is still here and Hide and Seek, both by Ida Vos.

Separated from parents during Holocaust: (high school)A pocket full of seeds by Marilyn Sachs

One that I consider more college than hs but there isn't really a section for that and it's shelved in the hs/YA section is Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, about a girl's discovery of her grandmother's refugee/resistance experience during the Holocaust in Poland, her grandmother who then was in German camps in the U.S. if I recall correctly. The book is woven with the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty and contemporary Poland (1980s, where jeans were sold on the black market.)

These are some of my favorite books. Somehow as a girl who has lived many places and not really called any of them "home" but for the "heart" that lived there, I devour these books for the kindred spirits I find inside their pages.

Candy Gourlay said…
Has Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera reached the States yet?
Mordena said…
Hmm, if we're counting Goodnight, Mr. Tom, I think we have to count Robert Westall's brilliant The Kingdom by the Sea.
Hi, Mitali,

Thank you for listing my book The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp.
Thanks for adding my novel to the list. By the way, I just posted a review of ABE IN ARMS to the web site of our local daily, the (Albany) Times-Union:
mclicious said…
This wasn't written for high schoolers, but Suitcase Sefton and the American Dream (by Jay Feldman) is about a baseball scout and a Japanese pitcher in an internment camp in Arizona.
Janice Harayda said…
Hi, Mitali,
I haven't read Warren St. John's "Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town" (about youth sports), but it might be good for high school: St. John (@warrenstjohn) is a good reporter, and the team got a lot of coverage.
Anonymous said…
I highly recommend Finikin of the Rock by Marlina Marchetta. A Fantasy, but with strong themes of refugees, resettlement, national and ethnic identity, leadership, etc.

Thanks for this great list- I've a couple more to add for younger readers over at my own post about books on refugees
Ann E. Burg who have you listed because of her YR title All the Broken Pieces also wrote a refugee picture book. It is a based on a true story of mostly Jewish refugees coming to America during WWII. It is called: Rebekkah's Journey: A World War II Refugee Story from Sleeping Bear Press. It is beautifully written and illustrated.
mary-j-59 said…
Two for junior high which you haven't mentioned are by Elizabeth Laird. "Kiss the Dust", about a girl from Iraq fleeing to Iran during the war, and "A Little Piece of Ground", about Palestinian boys in the West Bank trying to make a place to play soccer. Then one of my all-time favorite books, "I am David", by Ann Holm, about a young boy who escapes from a communist concentration camp and travels on foot through Europe.

I love your lists!