Diversity in MG lit #5 Refugees

I’ll start with a picture book, because MG readers still love them. ME AND MY FEAR by Francesca Sanna is the follow up to her deeply moving THE JOURNEY from last year. Sanna’s new book explores the territory of a newly arrived refugee who wants to get to know her new neighborhood but is held back by Fear–a marshmallow like creature who grows in response to the stress of navigating a new culture. This story felt so honest and real (in spite of the fanciful externalization of fear) I think it will make a great conversation starter.

From the team that created the Artimis Fowl graphic novels comes a book about the North African refugee experience. ILLEGAL by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano is the story of two brothers who leave their small town in Ghana to find their older sister who has already traveled to Europe. The journey is a harrowing one and this is not a book for the tender-hearted reader. Still there is plenty of heart in young Ebo who tries to do the decent and kind thing in increasingly harsh environments. This book moves back and forth in time which I found a little distracting but the art is beautiful and the story is gripping.

REFUGEE by Alan Gratz is an ambitious story that weaves together the journeys of a German refugee in 1938, a Cuban refugee in 1994, and a Turkish refugee in 2015.  This story is well rooted in research but is not based on a the story of a particular refugee. The end matter contains detailed maps of each refugee’s journey and a detailed author note about what in the story is based on real persons or events. It contains suggestions for how to help refugees in your community and in the world. The author will be donating a portion of his proceeds to UNICEF for its relief efforts to refugee children world wide.


I’m going to call your attention to one more book which will be out in the first week of January in 2019. WE ARE DISPLACED: MY JOURNEY & STORIES FROM REFUGEE GIRLS AROUND THE WORLD is written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Did you know that there are more than 65 million displaced persons in the world? Yousafzai shares her own story and the stories of displaced girls like herself that she has met through her activist work all over the world, putting a human face on the refugee experience.

I have chosen to focus on new books in this collection but most public libraries have a resource list of books about the refugee experience for young readers. Here is a list, including older titles, from the New York Public Library,

As always if you have a favorite book for MG readers about the refugee experience, please chime in below. Thank you!


Rosanne Parry
Rosanne Parry is the author of 7 MG novels including best sellers A Wolf Called Wander, and A Whale of the Wild. Her first picture book Big Truck Day will go on sale in September of 2022. She sells books at Annie Blooms Bookstore in Multnomah Village and writes books in her treehouse in Portland, Oregon.
1 Comment
  1. What a great list! And I love that you included a picture book. I’ve been wanting to read REFUGEE for a while. Now I’ve got more on my to-read list.