Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Immigration Books, part 2: picture books and anthologies

Two years ago I wrote a three-part series about teaching kids about the history and impact of US immigration. The first post introduced nonfiction resources for studying immigration; the second post covered historical fiction and memoirs, including novels and picture books; and the third shared books about modern-day immigration. A few months ago I shared a review of the picture books of Rene Colato Laínez, many of which feature immigrants to the US.

Since those posts, several more wonderful books have come out - so many so that I thought it was high time for a follow up. I've broken them down into several categories. The previous post shared books about the Syrian migration to Europe and books about Central American migration through Mexico to the US, while this post will cover other picture books about recent immigrants and anthologies and novels about immigration.

More Picture Books about Recent Immigrants

The Favorite Daughter (2013) by Allen Say. Based on his own daughter, Yuriko is struggling to figure out where she fits, with her divorced parents and the bright blond hair and Japanese name she inherited from each of them. This is a great story about figuring out who you are and where you belong. (My students' favorite parts of this book are the photographs of Allen Say's actual daughter - especially as a chubby toddler in her kimono!)

Here I Am (2014) story by Patti Kim and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez. This wordless picture book is a wonderful way to convey some of the confusion and difficulty of moving to a new place and not being able to immediately communicate. But when the young boy loses something important, it takes great courage for him to reach out and make a new friend. There is much to discuss and discover here. (The story is inspired by the author's own experience moving to the US from Korea at age 4.)

I'm New Here (2015) by Anne Sibley O'Brien. This thought-provoking picture book follows the stories of three recent immigrants as they try to adjust to their new lives in the United States. The story alternates point-of-view from Maria from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia. Each child has a unique way of explaining his/her own difficulties during the adjustment process, and each is helped in different ways by classmates.

My Two Blankets (2015) by Irena Kobald and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. This story is narrated by a young girl who flees her home country due to war and ends up with her aunt in an unfamiliar country with new languages and new animals. The two blankets are a metaphor for how she wraps herself in the known and the familiar, and they are also a testament to the power of a smile and of friendship. The book is based on the author's observations of her own Austrian-Australian daughter and her Sudanese-Australian friend.

A Piece of Home (2016) by Jeri Watts and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. This new addition on the theme of immigration is a first-person story narrated by Hee Jun as his family unexpectedly leaves Korea and moves to West Virginia in the United States. Hee Jun also shares the perspectives of his younger sister and his grandmother, as all three of them adjust to their new life in different ways. A fairly straight-forward story and not particularly memorable. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

Anthologies and Novels about Immigration

First Crossing: stories about teen immigrants (2007) edited by Donald Gallo. This is a powerful collection of short stories about the immigrant experience from a teenage point-of-view, though I wish the stories had more details about how many of them are purely fiction vs. autobiographical. I will definitely be using some of these stories with my middle schoolers. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

Open Mic: riffs on life between cultures in ten voices (2013), edited by Mitali Perkins. I really liked this short story collection and am planning on using several as mentor texts for my students. Authors share stories about growing up and navigating their backgrounds, heritages, and family situations. Many seem to be memoirs or at least directly-inspired by personal experiences. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

The Unforgotten Coat (2011) by Frank Cottrell Boyce (winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2012). This powerful and haunting story revolved around the sudden appearance of Chingis and his younger brother, immigrants to England from Mongolia. The book follows classmate Julie as finds herself suddenly their advocate. Told at times from her grown-up perspective, the story quickly becomes more complex as Julie tried to explain the boys' suspicious behavior. An interesting take on modern immigration and refugees, as well as the complexity of governmental responses.

What are your favorite new books about immigration or immigrants?

Read more in the immigration series here: nonfiction resources for studying immigration , historical fiction and memoirspicture books of Rene Colato Laínezbooks on modern immigration, and new books about Syrian and Central American immigration.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this mention; an honor for I'M NEW HERE to be included with such great books.

    Find many more at, a database of more than 100 contemporary immigrant titles, picture books through YA, searchable by group, theme, age, & country of origin. Also check out the blog for engagement activities.


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