This is a post for any of you planning to mark Refugee Week 2019 by raising awareness and promoting discussion about acceptance, kindness and refugees in your schools or homes. The books I’m going to share with you should be explored all year round, but I thought a special week may be the perfect time to kick-start a new programme in school and introduce them to pupils and staff alike.
These are titles which I have either used in school myself or have just recently been released but would be fantastic to use with children. I’ve ordered them chronologically, starting with books I’d recommend to use in EYFS and ending with Year 6 titles. The themes start off being about kindness, acceptance and welcoming others, to then looking more at the journeys some refugees have made before resettling and what life is like for them when they do. Where I’ve written fuller reviews for some titles, I’ve included a blue link at the end.
‘Welcome’ by Barroux (Egmont)
When Polar Bear and his friend are swept away from their icy home, they hope to seek refuge in a new land. But when they are turned away from one new place, and then another, they begin to doubt that they will ever find somewhere they’ll be welcome.
This is a great way to open up discussions with the very youngest of pupils about migrants and acceptance.
‘This Zoo is not For You’ by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow)
The residents of the zoo are in the process of interviewing applicants for a place which has become available. When a small platypus arrives at the zoo, the animals all presume he has come about the vacancy and begin a rigorous interview process. When small platypus is found lacking in all departments, he is soon asked to leave. But what’s this he’s left behind? An invitation to a party? The animals think that perhaps they’ve been a little too hasty and regret being so unwelcoming.
‘The Suitcase’ by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros (Nosy Crow)
When a strange-looking creature arrives, dragging behind it a rather large suitcase, the other animals don’t know quite what to make of it. It claims to have a teacup, a table and chair and a whole house in there! When the exhausted creature settles down for a nap, the incredulous animals decide the only way to discover whether it’s telling the truth or not is to break into its suitcase. Only then can they start to guess at what it’s been through.
A very gentle introduction to the journeys some asylum seekers have had to face and what they may have left behind, and a lesson on the importance of alwaysbeing kind. Told with humour and compassion.
‘The New Neighbours’ by Sarah McIntyre (David Fickling Books)
When new neighbours move in to the tower block, what will the other residents of Pickle Rye think? Find out in this hilarious and light-hearted book that is bursting with wonderful characters and humour which I’ve come to expect from Sarah McIntyre. Readers can share news of the new neighbours and learn just how important it is to leave judgements and prejudices far behind.
‘My Name is Not Refugee’ by Kate Milner (The Bucket List)
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.
This book incorporates lots of questions designed to get the reader thinking about what they’d do in a similar situation.
*Winner of the V&A Student Illustration Award 2016*
‘Azzi in Between’ by Sarah Garland (Lincoln Children’s Books)
Azzi and her parents are in danger and have to leave their home and their country behind. They must make a long and frightening journey by car and boat, learn a new language, find a new home and start at a new school. With a helper at school, Azzi slowly learns English and discovers that she is not the only one who has had to flee her home. Using her courage and resourcefulness she begins to adapt to her new life.
This graphic novel works particularly well for lower key stage 2 classes as it begins to introduce the idea of why some people are forced to flee their homes and what they go through to get somewhere safer, in an age-appropriate way.
‘The Day War Came’ by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (Walker Books)
This book came about after the government refused entry to 3000 child refugees in 2016. Nicola was so angry that she wrote this poem and started the #3000Chairs campaign.
Follow 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…
‘Tomorrow’ by Nadine Kaadan (Lantana Publishing)
Yazan no longer goes to the park to play, and he no longer sees his friend who lives next door. Everything around him is changing. His parents sit in front of the television with the news turned up LOUD and Yazan’s little red bike leans forgotten against the wall. Will he ever be able to go outside and play?
Based on Nadine’s experiences growing up in Damascus, this story is great for encouraging pupils to think about what life might be like growing up and living in a war-torn country. It also highlights how normal everyday life can turn into you being a prisoner in your own home.
Read my full review HERE
‘The Journey’ by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye Books)
Imagine what it’s like to have to leave your home and travel many miles to somewhere strange and unfamiliar. A mother and her two children set out on such a journey, filled with fear, but also hope.
Written based on the true stories of migrants collected by Sanna after meeting two girls in an Italian refuge centre.
Full of powerful imagery, best used and discussed in upper KS2.
‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ by Onjali Q. Raúf, cover by Pippa Curnick (Orion)
When the empty chair at the back of the class is filled by a new boy, Ahmet, he is a bit of a mystery. He doesn’t ever smile and doesn’t even eat sweets! However it soon becomes clear that Ahmet isn’t strange at all – he’s a refugee who has run away from a very real war. That’s when some of his classmates come up with a plan to help him…
*Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award 2019 and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize*
‘No Ballet Shoes in Syria’ by Catherine Brunton, cover by Kathrin Honest (Nosy Crow)
This book tells the story of eleven-year-old Aya who has just arrived in the U.K., seeking asylum from the war in Syria. Whilst queuing in the community centre with her Mama and baby brother, Aya stumbles across a dance class. The instructor spots her talent and encourages her to audition for the Royal Northern Ballet School. Meanwhile, Aya’s living situation is precarious and her mum’s mental health is deteriorating.
Sensitive use of flashbacks reveals Aya’s past in Syria in contrast to her life now in the U.K. Best for UKS2.
Read my full review HERE
This list is by no means exhaustive but should provide a good basis upon which to build an effective reading programme in your school and open up plenty of opportunities for discussion and reflection. I would also suggest that anyone planning to use one of these books reads it all the way through beforehand as there are some which always make me have to pause and catch my breath before I can carry on reading aloud.
*Many thanks to Nosy Crow and Lantana Publishing for sending me copies of their titles to review*