memoir

Stranger in a New Land: Six Books for Kids (and Teens) Based on the Refugee/Immigrant Experience

Refugees have been an on-going story in our world as long as there have been stories. A few years back when the Syrian refugee crisis was full-blown, it was hard for me to process. The numbers, the news reports, even the pictures, they all started to blend together. Those mediums have their place, but to read the personal story of one person can have a more profound effect than a million statistics or news reports.

Books and the stories they contain can be an amazing tool to help our kids (and ourselves) process what is going on in the world around us. As we read, learn and empathize, these stories can help us interact with our own world in a new way. We might not be able to have a direct impact on a Syrian refugee, but we can have an impact on the new kid (or their parent) who feels alone.

With that in mind, today’s list contains six books. A few of the books tell the refugee’s story as he/she flees their home country. Others are made up of characters who are living in America as immigrants. All of them give insight into what it would feel like to leave your home and start over in a strange new land. This list of books is special offering readers relatable characters they will easily root for and identify with. They also simply contain good stories that I hope your kids will enjoy as they read.

Books that Quietly Change Culture

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic in children’s literature. Written in 1962, it was well-received from the get-go and even won the Caldecott Medal that year. Who can’t relate to the wonder of a fresh blanket of snow? The Snowy Day was also one of the first picture books to feature an African American child as the main character. Written in the midst of the Civil Rights movement this book quietly made a very important statement.

I read an article that ran on NPR on January 28, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of The Snowy Day) that shared one of the ways this book made an impact:

5 (or more) Novels in Verse that Will Make you Fall in Love with the Genre

The first time I pulled a novel in verse off the shelf, I opened it, saw that it looked like one long poem and quickly put it back. A year later I decided to give one a try and checked out a copy of Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. I quickly learned I had made a mistake by putting that book back on the shelf so long ago. After that, it did not take long for me to fall in love with the genre.

 Most novels in verse contain well-crafted stories told through carefully chosen words. I am often amazed at how different authors utilize poetry, some through free verse and others through more structured forms of poetry to tell their stories.  The novel in verse is also accessible to a wide variety of readers. Because of the large amount of white space on the page, they are relatively quick reads making them a good pick for avid and reluctant readers alike. 

Below are five-is to get you started. Please add to the list in the comments. I am always on the look out for more. 

Biographies, the Graphic Novel edition

Readers come in all shapes and sizes, with ALL kinds of different likes and preferences. For kids who connect more with pictures than words, graphic novels can be a great tool to encourage a love of books and stories. 

Biographies can be a harder sub-genre to find within the graphic novel world, but I went on a hunt at my local library to see what I could uncover. I found a few I want to share, and was even able to cajole a few of my kids into reading along. Although, they are all inclined to pick up a graphic novel that is lying around our house without any pushing from me. My boys especially really love them. 

Below is what I found. If you have any recommendations to add, I'd love to hear them in the comments!

10 Books to Celebrate and Learn from Black History

February is Black History month, and in my mind there is no better way to learn about and from history than through the power of story. From slavery to the civil rights movement, African Americans in our country have walked a road marked with hate and injustice. That said, I am reminded of a quote by Fred Rogers:  When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

It's true. In the midst of tough and scary things, there are always helpers; and in the darkest times of African American history in our country, there were bold and brave, multi-colored helpers. 

Obviously, racial issues are still a struggle today. Reading stories of others who stood up to hate or were the target of it builds compassion in our kids. It opens the door to conversations that need to happen in our homes and in the larger world abroad. I hope this list of books is one that will help all of us seek to understand, help us to remember the past, and inspire us to continue to work towards healing and compassion in the future.  

Inspiring Biographies for Black History Month

Black History Month began this week. In an effort to celebrate the contributions and beautiful color so many African Americans have added to our country I thought I’d highlight a few inspiring biographies I’ve discovered over the years. I hope these are titles that will connect with your kids, engage their hearts, and inspire them to learn more about these amazing people who have impacted our country in big ways.