Book List: 7 Children’s Books About Immigration

For many people, the United States is the beacon of hope, a place to live the “American Dream.” From the first Irish immigrants who arrived in the early 19th century to the current refugees trying to escape their war-torn countries, the United States was and continues to be shaped by the different cultures and groups that come to live a better life. With the recent political rhetoric and the increase in anti-immigrant sentiment, it’s now more important than ever to not see an “us versus them” situation, but rather to celebrate the differences that actually make America great. In this book list, we’ve rounded up seven of our titles that are about the immigrant experience, and encourage readers to be accepting of all people from different backgrounds.

mama the alien

Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre, by René Colato Laínez, illus. by Laura Lacámara

When Mamá’s purse falls on the floor, Sofia gets a peek at Mamá’s old Resident Alien card and comes to the conclusion that Mamá might be an alien from outer space. Sofia heads to the library to learn more about aliens. But Mamá looks like a human mother! Could she really be an alien?

Purchase a copy of the book here.

grandfather counts

Grandfather Counts, by Andrea Cheng, illus. by Ange Zheng

Gong Gong (Grandfather) is coming from China to live with Helen’s family. Helen is excited, but anxious. How will she and her siblings, who know only English, communicate with Gong Gong, who speaks only Chinese? This moving intergenerational story highlights the universality of the love shared between grandparent and grandchild, a love that helps them cross the boundaries of language and culture.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

brothers in hope

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, by Mary Williams, illus. by R. Gregory Christie

Based on heartbreaking yet inspirational true events in the lives of the Lost Boys of Sudan, this is a story of remarkable and enduring courage, and an amazing testament to the unyielding power of the human spirit.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

have a good day cafe

The Have a Good Day Cafe, by Frances Park and Ginger Park, illus. by Katherine Potter

Early each morning Mike and his family drive to the city with their food cart. They sell bagels and orange juice for breakfast, hot dogs and pizza for lunch. Mike passes the time by drawing pictures, and Grandma sits in the shade, fanning herself and missing life back home in Korea. Brimming with warmth and love, this story is a tribute to the resourcefulness of new immigrants everywhere.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

summer of the mariposas

Summer of the Mariposas, by Guadalupe García McCall

Award-winning author Guadalupe García McCall brings us a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey that celebrates sisterhood and maternal love.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

calling the water drum

Calling the Water Drum, by LaTisha Redding, illus. by Aaron Boyd

Henri and his parents leave their homeland, Haiti, after they receive an invitation from an uncle to come to New York City. Only able to afford a small, rickety boat, the family sets out in the middle of the night in search of a better life. Then the small boat overturns, and Henri is placed on top of the boat as his parents drift further out at sea. Overcome with grief, Henri retreats into himself and is no longer able to speak once he reaches land. Encouraged by his uncle and neighbor, Henri takes a bucket and plays on it like a drum. This is a tender and beautiful tribute to the resiliency of children and the human spirit.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

mama and papa have a store

Mama and Papa Have a Store, by Amelia Lau Carling

A young girl brings us into her home, which is also her parents’ store. Located in Guatemala City, the store is filled with the colorful textures of cloth, threads, buttons, and things from her parents’ homeland in China. As people come and go throughout the day, the girl hears several languages—Spanish, Chinese, and Mayan. Lyrical writing and delightful artwork will captivate both children and adults in this story drawn from the author/illustrator’s childhood memories.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Let us know what some of your favorite books about immigration are!

Further reading

11 Educator Resources for Teaching Children About Latin American Immigration and Migration

11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration

Compiling Rigorous Thematic Text Sets: Books About Immigration

Diversity 102: The Library of Congress Battle Over “Illegal Alien”

Relevant interviews

Author LaTisha Redding on Immigration, Grief, and the Healing Power of Art

Monica Brown on Dehumanizing Language and the Immigration Debate

René Colato Laínez: No More “Illegal Aliens”

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