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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 encourage them to make sense of a very difficult topic.
In The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros the little animals were at first curious and then suspicious of the stranger who arrived, tired and bewildered, carrying a weathered suitcase. As they learn more about the stranger their feelings turn from fear to compassion in a very touching but honest tale. "Welcome and understanding are at the heart of this children’s book by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros. . . beautifully illustrated." Laura Padoan, spokesperson for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Raúf won the Best Story category in the Blue Peter Awards this year and has been shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award. It is a touching and clear-sighted child's-eye view of the problems facing refugees. "The plotline is very lively – it includes some excellent comic scenes at Buckingham Palace – and Raúf manages to keep the story positive and uplifting while still illustrating the cruelty and bigotry that refugees face." Andrea Reece, our expert reviewer.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon, awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour 2017, is a devastating novel about friendship, cruelty and resilience, set in a refugee camp. Our reader review panel found it captivating and enlightening: 'a wonderful, thought-provoking and sad book' and 'It is definitely a book for today, addressing the global issue of refugees and displaced people. I really enjoyed this novel.' Zana Fraillon felt compelled to write her novel because she could not ignore the millions of people who were being forcibly displaced and the millions of children missing out on a childhood. Zana comments, “The Bone Sparrow was written so we remember the people behind the statistics. Those 65 million stories waiting to be told, those 33 million children wondering if their futures will ever be realised. It was written so we can find the courage to stand for humanity, and the wisdom to imagine a different world. It was written so we may all live in hope.”
Scroll down for a wider selection of books, from picture books to YA titles, that explore what it really means to escape your home and seek refuge in another country.
An image from A Story Like the Wind by Gill Lewis and Jo Weaver.
It is estimated that over 21 million people have been forced to flee their homes 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 vulnerable 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 thousands 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 members.
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).
“I look up to the birds that seem to be following us. They are migrating just like us. And their journey, like ours, is very long, but they don’t have to cross any borders.” The Journey by Francesca Sanna