Barely a day goes by without the plight of refugees making headlines, whether through a tragedy, political conflict or a heart-rending tale of survival against the odds. In response to this global crisis a number of books have been published which help our young readers understand the refugee situation and encourgage them to make sense of a very difficult topic. We have gathered the best into this special category.
In a nutshell: friendship and understanding can change the world Two young people under extraordinary pressure are at the heart of Siobhan Curham’s compassionate, affecting and ultimately uplifting novel. Hafiz is a refugee newly arrived in Britain after two terrifying years on the road. His parents are still in Syria. Stevie’s mother is suffering with depression, spending most of her time asleep and relying on her daughter for everything. Money is tight and Stevie struggles to keep her predicament a secret from school and classmates. Brought together by accident the two become friends, bonding as much over a shared love of strong coffee and arcade claw machines as through their joint loneliness and isolation. Both their lives are changed as a result. Tender and convincing, the story demonstrates that with friendship, unity and humanity there’s hope even in the most extreme circumstances. ~ Andrea Reece
Cathy Cassidy has a talent for writing positive and life-affirming stories even though they’re about young people facing really difficult situations. Sami’s story is almost too sad to be told. He’s a refugee from Syria, and lost his father, mother and little sister in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach the safety of Europe. That story is told through the pages of his notebook, but it’s interspersed with the story of his life now, living in England with his aunt and uncle and playing in the band Lost and Found. The friendship of the other band members is the best healing possible, and he has a special friend in Lexie, star of the first book in this series. Sub-plots provide light relief, e.g. when Marley recruits tone-deaf Bobbi-Jo into the band convinced her record-producer dad will make them stars. It’s a lovely and very successful mix of music, friendships and the power that comes from kindness and compassion, and classic Cathy Cassidy.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2018 | Award-wining Nicola Davies has created a beautiful story which makes its powerful point brilliantly by focusing on the plight of a single child refugee. A little girl’s way of life - one that will be familiar to children around the world - is totally destroyed when the war comes. Having lost everything, alone and facing terrible danger, she travels across the world in search of a new home. But who will help her to find one? Nicola Davies never preaches, instead she allows her story and Rebecca Cobb’s equally sensitive and warm-hearted illustrations to carry the message with their own integrity and eloquence. The book is endorsed by Amnesty International.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2018 | Full of hope and wonder but also shot through with deep feelings of sadness this is a beautiful story about the importance of belonging. Azi’s home is with his grandfather on a Mediterranean island but he has always known that it isn’t where he was born. When Grandfather goes missing Azi, together with the dog who has befriended him and a young girl who is visiting the island, sets out to find him and to discover the truth about where he really comes from. Sarah Lean has created an original and touching story based on true stories about migration. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for May 2018 Square by Mac Barnett A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge A Perfect Day by Lane Smith Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes & James Mayhew Wonder Goal! by Michael Foreman The Sand Dog by Sarah Lean The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell Plantopedia by Adrienne Barman
A group of undocumented children with letters for names, are stuck living in a refugee camp, with stories to tell but no papers to prove them. As they try to forge a new family amongst themselves, they also long to keep memories of their old identities alive. Will they be heard and believed? And what will happen to them if they aren't? An astonishing piece of writing that will enchant and intrigue children; perfectly pitched at a 9+ readership.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2018 | In a story full of hope against adversity, King of the Sky tells how flying a homing pigeon helps a young boy comes to terms with his life in a strange country far, far from home. Now living under grey skies in a country where he feels an outsider, a young boy misses the blue sky, warm sun and of ice cream of his home in Rome. But when he his racing pigeon returns to him safely from Rome the boy realises that home is where he is and he finds a new sense of belonging. ~ Julia Eccleshare
Shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | In a Nutshell: Circus girl searches for roots amidst real-world cruelties A dazzlingly powerful kaleidoscope of magic realism, folklore and the brutalities of people-trafficking in which a fourteen-year-old circus girl seeks to uncover her identity. As a baby, Sante was washed up with a chest containing a bamboo flute and a leopard skin drum, and welcomed into Mama Rose’s travelling circus. Fourteen years later, still haunted by dreams of the sinking ship, and of those who furnished her with special objects to see her through life, Sante recognises two people from her dreams during a performance. “It's her all right. She plays just like Mamadou used to”, one of them remarks. But how do these people know her? Why does she dream of them? And who is Mamadou? Reluctant at first, Mama Rose reveals that Sante’s trunk also contained other treasures, including a note from her mother. With the strangers set on claiming Sante’s riches, she and snake charmer Cobra decide to discover the truth for themselves. Throughout, Sante’s story sings with the hauntingly potent voice of the human spirit as it combines timely, poignant truths about refugees with timeless storytelling. This really is a triumphant, thought-provoking treasure trove of a novel. ~ Joanne Owen The Branford Boase Judges said : ‘packed with memorable scenes and an extraordinarily vivid sense of place’; ‘language and story are equally interesting’; ‘things don’t come more original than this’.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2017 Twelve-year-old Ebo’s terrifying story of travelling alone from his home in Africa in order to have the chance of a childhood, education and ultimately a safe way of life is brilliantly told this graphic novel. In words and pictures, Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano tell how Ebo, along with so many others in the same plight, makes his way across the treacherous Sahara Desert before he even begins on the desperate journey across the sea. Told with great sympathy and warmth and propelled by Nobel Laureate Elis Wiesel’s powerful quote, “You, who are so-called illegal aliens, must know that no human being is illegal”, Ebo’s story which is shared by millions migrants, should be read by all. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for October 2017 A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell Pax by Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen Egyptomania by Emma Giuliani and Carole Saturno Father Christmas and Me by Matt Haig The Greatest Magician in the World by Matt Edmondson
September 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Circus girl searches for roots amidst real-world cruelties A dazzlingly powerful kaleidoscope of magic realism, folklore and the brutalities of people-trafficking in which a fourteen-year-old circus girl seeks to uncover her identity. As a baby, Sante was washed up with a chest containing a bamboo flute and a leopard skin drum, and welcomed into Mama Rose’s travelling circus. Fourteen years later, still haunted by dreams of the sinking ship, and of those who furnished her with special objects to see her through life, Sante recognises two people from her dreams during a performance. “It's her all right. She plays just like Mamadou used to”, one of them remarks. But how do these people know her? Why does she dream of them? And who is Mamadou? Reluctant at first, Mama Rose reveals that Sante’s trunk also contained other treasures, including a note from her mother. With the strangers set on claiming Sante’s riches, she and snake charmer Cobra decide to discover the truth for themselves. Throughout, Sante’s story sings with the hauntingly potent voice of the human spirit as it combines timely, poignant truths about refugees with timeless storytelling. This really is a triumphant, thought-provoking treasure trove of a novel. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: Trafficked children * Friendship and freedom * Sublime transformations A poignant and poetic novel that gives voice to the oft-forgotten children imperiled to trafficking and slavery. Eleven-year-old Esra, storyteller Miran and six-year-old Isa have been enslaved by a gang. They’re locked in a room beneath the house and must tend to The Jungle. “The tattoo on my arm… says I am owned”, Esra explains, but she knows a different truth. She knows that no marks on her skin can say who she really is. “One day, I will be free”, she resolves even as she’s being beaten. There’s a chance to escape, but Miran is too injured to do so. “With our souls tied together, we won’t ever be apart”, he whispers before urging Esra to flee with Isa. While Miran is hospitalised and captured by the police, Esra struggles to keep up her spirits. Then she and Isa form a bond with a “strange” boy named Skeet and together they make a man from the mud of the river. When Riverman takes on a life of his own, he might just lead them to the freedom they’ve been seeking. I adored the author’s previous novel, the hauntingly moving The Bone Sparrow, and this more than confirms her majestic writing skills, and a style that will surely be adored by fans of David Almond. By turns harrowing, heart-wrenching, and magical, this is an incredibly powerful - and incredibly important - novel. Joanne Owen
Winner of the UKLA 2018 Book Award 7-11 | This is an excellent book for young people who want to know what is happening in Syria and why – serious, thoughtful, sympathetic to the ordinary people caught up in the war; in a highly readable story it gives a real insight into their lives, and how quickly they have changed from something very similar to our own, to something incomprehensible. Readers meet Laird’s fictional Syrian family at the beginning of the civil war when life is good, particularly for her central character Omar, a young boy already dreaming of running his own business. But as protests against the government spiral into war, the family are forced from their house, then their country. Omar stays upbeat, even in their refugee camp where hope is in very short supply, a lively, reassuring narrator. Unlike his older brother, he’s not interested in the protests, just wants things to be back the way they were; though the book ends with Omar, his mother and sisters escaping the refugee camp, we know that their lives have changed forever.
A highly topical, award-winning novel from a truly great writer for children. The genocide of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein was to most people brutal and barbaric and given the current situation in the Middle East and the wars there that have gone before, this is a book that should be read by adult and child alike for it provides both an insight into the sometimes inhuman actions of the human race as well as testimony to the determination and strength of the dispossessed. It’s a book that will stick in your mind for the appallingness of what went on then and make you ponder on the what’s still going on and going wrong in the Middle East today. Kiss the Dust is compulsively readable, utterly gripping yet harrowing too and the characters, in particular Tara, are beautifully drawn and so rich in emotion. It deserves to be a classic and on every reading list.
An image from A Story Like the Wind by Gill Lewis and Jo Weaver.
A Refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
Over 21 million people have been forced flee their countries to find safety.
Refugees are protected through international law and should not be returned to countries where their lives are at risk. There are numbers of charities across the world that do incredible work supporting refugees, helping with asylum requests and providing immediate aid; food, shelter and medical assistance, and protecting the human rights of these very vunerable people.
Amnesty International. If you are interested in finding out more about the refugee crisis there are articles, blogs and videos on the Amnesty International website. You can also hear an interview with Lord Dubs, the Labour Peer who campaigns for the rights of refugees. As a child he was rescued from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport, just before the outbreak of World War Two. Listen here.
Or visit www.unhcr.org which is the UN Refugee Agency, a global organisation dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.
The British Red Cross supports refugees seeking help in the UK. You can read some of the true stories from thousand of refugees the British Red Cross have helped at www.redcross.org.uk - and find out what special services are available to young refugees, some of whom arrive in the UK without their parents or other family member.
An image from My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner
The books in this collection appeal to a wide range of ages and are perfect to help initiate a discussion as a family or in the classroom.
Amnesty International and the Amnesty CILIP Honour:
The Amnesty CILIP Honour was introduced in 2016, to commend human rights in children’s literature. One book is selected from each of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal shortlists, chosen because it most distinctively illuminates, upholds or celebrates freedoms. The inaugural Amnesty CILIP Honours were awarded in 2016 to Robin Talley for Lies We Tell Ourselves (CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist) and Ross Collins for There’s a Bear on My Chair (CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist).
The judges for the 2017 Amnesty CILIP honour are: Amy Leon, Ross Collins, Sita Brahmachari, Bali Rai, Jack Mapanje, Manya Benenson, Louise Johns-Shepherd, Nicky Parker, Dan Jones and Rowena Seabrook.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon was awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour from the CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist.
The Journey by Francesca Sanna was awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour from the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist.