5 Children’s Books About Immigration Created by POC Featuring Children of Color
Despite the updated dismal numbers on who actually gets to be in books, Children's Lit is still a important part of the pie when its comes to the book publishing industry. Ask Cousin Google and you can instantly pull up lists upon lists of book recs for kid lit that you should be reading — in fact, lists about recs for children’s books on immigration are nothing new.
Yet, the more and more I delved, I realized I wanted a list about the immigration experience in books for children featuring children of color — but by creative teams of color. If you can’t find what you are looking for, make it yourself so without further ado —
5 Children’s Books About Immigration Featuring Children of Color, Not Written or Illustrated by White People.
The Name Jar
Written and Illustrated by Yangsook Choi
Published by Dragonfly Books, 3–7 years
Chosen as a PBS Reading Rainbow Selection, Cho’s The Name Jar is a endearing tale of little Uhei who has a new home in a new country along with a new school. Her family has left Korea and she’s both anxious and excited to see her new school. But she has a barrier: her very Korean sounding name makes her second guess if she’ll be able to fit in. The name she loves, the name that her mother and grandmother went to a name master for, the name she’s had for four years of her life.
The lesson of keeping what makes you different can not be over simplified and I love the enthusiasm of her fellow students and the lengths they go to help her and even learn about her culture. I love the visual reminder from home in the form of her grandmother’s gift. I absolutely love the thought and consideration Uhei has in the final decision about her name. Her courage in the classroom can bring up talking points with your little one about traditions, family and the many many we can stay connected to our culture and those we hold dear.
by Yuyi Morales
Published by Neal Porter Books, 4–8 years
Dreamers by Caldecott Honor artist and five-time Pura Belpré Award winner Yuyi Morales is a book that, at it very core, is about hope. The type of hope that starts to take root once you start to gain your bearings and start to find your home. Back in 1994, the author came to the United States with her infant son. In a new place, unfamiliar and unsure, they came leaving behind nearly all they had yet but soon they find a sanctuary that serves as a catalyst to help them make this new place, their home. The poetic wording sets both mother and son: “Migrantes, you and I” on pages with buildings along with fantastical huge looming plants, book shelves with rockets and sharks busting free and book pages serving as borders to freely walk across.
A library becomes a second home for these two: encouraging and inspiring this little family to trust in the decision that brought them here and breathe new life in everything that they have to offer. The artwork presents page after page of this brown skinned mother-son duo immerse themselves in the very pages of the story making it a visual treat to behold. Dreamers is very much a book on hope, home and how finding where you are supposed to be the key — yet it is also a love letter to libraries. A brilliant, colorful read on how reading can be the gateway to the hope every dreamer needs to experience they live they yearn for.
We Came To America
by Faith Ringgold
Published by Knopf Books for Young, 5–8 years
The Coretta Scott King and Caldecot Honor winning creator best known for her painted story quilts, Faith Ringgold didn’t have to put this book out. To clarify, she’s gifted the world with so many great children books including, my favorite, the beloved Tar Beach. Here the artist turns to America’s rich history of people and the many places they come from to flesh out the diverse tapestry of this land. With a quick dedication that everyone should read and impart those words to their hearts, We Came To America opens to with Indigenous folks, “We came to America, every color, race, and religion, from every country in the world. Some of us were already here before the others came.”
With each page more and more families are added against different colored backgrounds: different skin colors, different clothing, different hairstyles, head coverings and hats. Each page weaves in more people while adding more lines along to the “We came to America, every color, race, and religion, from every country in the world” — like “Some of us came running from Injustice, fear and pain”. Laying the foundation through words and art that while each of us are different, it is to be celebrated, as we are what make this country great! We Came To America is a treat from a beloved artist who has not lost her touch and this read can serve as an introduction to her work for newer, younger readers and also function as an uplifting book affirming the very best of this country while it is riding the current waves of much political strife and internal turmoil that we have.
Carmela Full of Wishes
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books, 4–8 years
Carmela Full of Wishes, to my knowledge is the only book on this list that actually exists in the same universe with another book published previously. That book is Last Stop On Market Street, also created by the same creative team features a familiar, interesting neighborhood that young CJ and his grandmother ride through Sunday morning. In this book, Carmela navigates the neighborhood with her big brother while thinking big on dreams and family. Sitting as A Publishers Weekly Best Book, a little girl with brown skin is present on the cover here and her young life’s hopes and dreams are centered.
It is implied that Carmela has a parent who has been deported as their immigration status isn’t secured: their absence is noted, their presence missed. Her trip away from home is a hopeful one and her childlike enthusiasm on exploring is infectious and the warmth spread across the pages can be felt the longer and longer you read. The day is spent pushing past the folks in her community, brown skinned folks working in fields, street vendors, store fronts and more while pondering on what is her heart’s biggest desire. The unique acrylic-and-cutout spreads add to the visual playground, the artwork is simple, easy on the eyes and endears you to the characters on page like little Carmela who rides around on her scooter with big hopes and dreams for the future.
The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration
Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, Young Adult Fiction
The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration — the first graphic novel by poet and writer Wayde Compton and illustrator April dela Noche Milne — explores the world from a migrant’s perspective with dreamlike wonder. It is also the only graphic novel on the list and a book that eases into YA territory, however I felt it still had a place here. Graphic novels (and comics by association) have received a bad rep for so long as genre to be taken seriously (but that has been changing the genre has been gaining credibility!) and kids LOVE them and so do the older young adults in our lives.
What I love most about The Blue Road is the handling of a fantasy setting and the feel of folklore and fable in a narrative that touches upon how people are denied their humanity — in a bigger view of the world with all its existing power structures and institutions. The artistic interpretation of such creations like borders is unique and visually stunning. This is a story that challenges how borders are defined and can be harmful while also examining how the attitudes of those who live amongst migrants, often aloof and counterproductive to change. As a whole, The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration is a subversive and quite powerful clever way to look at such a big issue, and there is always so much talk about and present it in a tale meant for children and young adults with much clarity and ease.
And that’s the list! I’d love to hear what books you and your little ones are reading by folks of color featuring kids of color on any and every topic not just immigration — on body image, on feelings and more! Let me know in the comments what is a worthy book!