Unless you are an immigrant or the child of immigrants, the move from one country to another can be a hard thing for kids to understand. The transplanting of a life is about more than just a physical shift. It’s about holding onto one’s culture, ideals, and heritage during a shift onto new soil, and it’s no small thing. In honor of such a move, here are 15 books to help your child grasp what it means to arrive in a new land.
by David Fassler
This book is filled with illustrations and written descriptions by children who have immigrated to the United States. It’s a beautiful first-hand account of what it’s like for a child to come to a new place.
by Jamie Lee Curtis
This book, written by Jamie Lee Curtis, poses the question: If you had to fill your suitcase with all the things that are most important to you, what would you pack? Of all the things and people and places in your life, what says, “This is me”? It tackles what defines us. It also comes with a pop-up suitcase on the back cover for young readers to fill.
by Patti Kim
A boy moves to a new world full of bright colors, loud noises, and words he cannot understand, but he takes with him a token from his old life: a red seed. He carries it everywhere until it falls out his window. Now he must venture out and brave the new world. In this world he finds friendship and the ability to bring the things he loves about his past into this new place.
by Edwidge Danticat
Saya’s mother is sent to a detention center for undocumented immigrants. Saya must take solace in the sound of her mother’s voice on the answering machine and the cassette tapes she sends her. While her father spends his evenings writing letters to officials, Saya writes her own story based on the Haitian folk stories her mother tells, and she learns the power words have to change lives.
by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes
Think a longer distance “Homeward Bound” for this one. This true story follows the journey of one cat, Kunkush, who gets separated from his Iraqi family on their way to Greece. Aid workers find the cat and join a worldwide force to reunite Kunkush with his family in their new home.
by Irena Kobald
A little girl nicknamed Cartwheel moves from Sudan to Australia and finds security in the metaphorical blanket she weaves of her language and memories. She meets a girl at the park who helps her weave a new blanket, with new words and experiences, to go along with the old one. Written by an Austrian immigrant to Australia, this book perfectly captures the experience for anyone who has been the new kid.
by Eve Bunting
Written by the best-selling author Eve Bunting, this book follows Farrah, a Muslim immigrant who feels isolated from her classmates in her new school. But when she visits an apple orchard on a class field trip, she finds things that can bring them together. The green apple she accidentally puts into the apple press instead of the red one mixes together to form a cider they share, an extension of the melting pot metaphor for a new generation.
by Yangsook Choi
Nobody can pronounce “Unhei,” or at least that’s what Unhei, the new Korean girl, thinks when she starts in a new school. So she decides to come up with a new name and everybody in the class gets to help by filling up a name jar. It’s only after a week of being “Jane” and “Suzy” that one classmate finds out the meaning of her real name and encourages her to use it. This book is excellent at celebrating being yourself and being brave in new situations.
by Norah Dooley
This book is a moveable feast. One little girl is sent to fetch her brother for dinner and, as she explores the neighborhood, she sees all the different ways each family cooks rice. It’s a celebration of cultures on a San Francisco street. It also comes with recipes at the end.
by Patricia Polacco
This New York Times bestseller follows a family’s move from Russia to America in the early 1900s. They take along their most prized possession: a tea set meant to bring blessings to the owner. The favorite cup among the bunch, “the blessing cup,” becomes a symbol of hope and a reminder of heritage that gets passed down over the decades.
by Chieri Uegaki
Suki is the kid we all wish we could be. On her first day of class she insists on wearing the blue kimono her obachan, her grandmother, bought her at a street festival. She gets so excited recounting the story of the kimono in front of the class that she begins to dance and sing, just as she had on that day. Suki is brave, funny, and fiercely herself, making this book an easy favorite.
by Allen Say
This book, winner of the Caldecott Medal for most distinguished picture book, traces the story of one man’s grandfather who came from Japan to California and back again. It reflects the love for both places and both cultures in a way that shows the complexity of an immigrant’s life as one man tries to hold on to the old and the new with equal appreciation.
by Janet S. Wong
This book is full of sensory imagery – the smell of baking pies that clashes with the chow mein and other Asian cooking in one girl’s family restaurant. The girl is convinced her parents do not understand what America values on Fourth of July until she watches patrons enjoy her family’s cooking. She ends the night eating apple pie and watching the fireworks with a new appreciation of her family. The bright, paper-cut illustrations bring this book to life just as much as the narrative.
by Eve Bunting
Another one by Eve Bunting, this story follows a Caribbean family who is forced to flee their home in a small fishing boat. They arrive in America on Thanksgiving Day. The story is both suspenseful and hopeful as readers root for this family’s survival while they brave the waters to come to a better place.
by Dan Yaccarino
Yaccarino tells the true story of his grandfather’s arrival on Ellis Island from Italy with shovel in hand, ready to work hard and make a new life. The shovel made it through four generations and carried with it the rich history of a culture that never left. This is a book that will make you want to interview your own parents on the history of your ancestors.