This week is Refugee Week, a week celebrating the contribution of refugees and promoting understanding of why people seek sanctuar y. A...

Quick Reviews: Books About Refugees and Being Welcoming

Saturday, June 22, 2019 BookBairn 6 Comments

This week is Refugee Week, a week celebrating the contribution of refugees and promoting understanding of why people seek sanctuary. And one of the simple acts that they are encouraging you to do is to share a story.

“The experiences of refugees can feel very far away. But they are all around us, if we know where to look.” And for children a great place to look is a book!

So I wanted to share some wonderful stories about the experiences of refugees and about creating a welcoming nature in your children. 

Welcome by Barroux

I have mentioned this one several times before as it's such a perfect way to introduce what can be a difficult topic for young children to understand. This one is so good for very small children as it revolves around a trio of polar bears whose ice cap has broken off and floated out to sea. They are in search of a new home, a refuge to make them safe. They are greeted by unwelcoming shouts of "you are too furry, too tall, too bear-ish", they are told there is no room, they are ignored until they find an empty island to make their own. And when some lost monkeys turn up looking for refuge - the bears welcome them with open arms and friendly generosity. A very simple way to share the plight of migrants. And with bright illustrations it really is wonderful for little kids.

The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

The Suitcase is a story about what it’s like to fit all your belongings into one suitcase and then travel to a place unknown. Looking different and having a mysterious past, the stranger tries to explain what is inside his suitcase - a teacup, a chair, a whole home and hillside with trees. Of course, the animals believe he must be fibbing. And become so suspicious they break into your precious suitcase but what they find their floods them with empathy and compassion and an understanding of what the weary stranger has been through and they realise the importance of making them feel at home. The illustrations are heart-warming and vital to the storytelling of the stranger. Overall this books is about overcoming our fears and distrust, reaching out a hand to a stranger in need and realising that that stranger might just enlighten and enrich our own world. Beautiful and powerful.

The Day the War Came by Nicola Davies & Rebecca Cobb

War can be a difficult concept for our children to understand as so often our teaching of it is confined to the past. But for many children it is a day to day reality. When the little girl starts her normal day, and goes to school to learn about tadpoles turning into frogs, no one was expecting that war would come. As the little girl grapples in confusion with what has happened, what is happening, and separated from her family, she finds a safe place. But whilst she is safe, she is alone. Until the children make her welcome by finding her a chair in their classroom. The Day the War Came  is a magnificent work of art, full of story and symbolism showing readers that war is not only in the events of a country far away which cause destruction and devastation but war is also doors shut, people turning away, not having enough chairs. This is such a poignant story I cannot express its importance and beauty.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

This is certainly a book to experience as well as read. It's a celebration as much as it is a story! Following a group of children in their school and throughout their day in school, this book shows a school where diversity it's at it's heart. Everyone is welcome no matter their race, religion or background. this story shares an uplifting celebration of cultural diversity and belonging where all children are welcome in the classroom. With children wearing hijabs, patkas, baseball caps and yarmulkes playing and learning side-by-side the illustrations in the book create a world where all the children belong. With scenes of the children pointing to their family's countries of origin, and the children gathered on the floor in a circle drawing illustrations of families of all sizes and colours and a playground full of happy children having fun together this is a really welcoming book! You will want to jump into the illustrations. The accompanying poem (it's definitely more a poem than a story) lets readers know that what they see in the illustrations is reinforced by the language of the school and community: everyone is welcome, they all have a place, they all have a space, no matter what. The school also has children of a variety of abilities including a blind child who carries a whitestick and a child in a wheelchair, reinforcing the lovely message of inclusion. That, for me, sums up what I want a school, and a wider community, to be and to cherish. This book is so wonderfully executed and really lives up to it's important message!

Everybody's Welcome by Patricia Hegarty & Greg Abbott

This story promotes the ideals of refuge, inclusivity and friendship at a level even the littlest readers will understand. Mouse is building a house in the middle of the wood. When Frog's pond dries up and he has no where to live, Mouse suggests that they build a home together:

"Everybody's welcome,
no matter who they are, 
Wherever they may come from,
whether near or far."

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations that BookBairn loves to pore over, spotting all her favourite creatures, this magical book really teaches little ones about acceptance, generosity and to empathise with others. 

And lastly I want to mention two books which I no longer have as I gave them to the school I worked in and the other to a friend's school, wanting as many children to read it as possible.


The Journey by Francesca Sanna is a beautiful and powerful depiction of a family’s flight to safety. In some places quite dark, this picture book is aimed at older children showing them the fear and terror of fleeing one's country in search of safety.

Me and My Fear also by Francesca Sanna is the story a young girl who has traveled to a new country and started a new school and her Fear tells her to be alone and afraid. She doesn't understand the language of the other children in her class, she feels isolated. And her Fear grows bigger and bigger. But one day she realises that she isn't alone in carrying around her Fear - the other children have them too! And when the children all play together the Fears become less intimidating and shrink to a manageable size. 

And finally a book that I want to read is My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner which having read about over on Acorn Books blog I am really interested to read and add to our bookshelves.

Some mighty powerful picture books on a subject that is so important to share with or children so they can empathise and see beyond themselves and their own experiences to teach them to reach out their hands and open their hearts to others.

Kim and the bairns x

Disclaimer: We were sent all these books free for review purposes by the publishers (except Welcome by Barroux which I bought myself). Words and opinions are my own. If you click on the title or image of the book you will be sent to using an affiliate link. This means that if you choose to purchase on, I will receive a small sum (around 20-70p per book) from amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our 'For Our Readers' section.


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  1. “To empathise with others” - if only more people could do this (I could include a rant about present day politicians here but will resist it).

    1. I know! Sometimes I think kids are better at this and we need to learn our lessons from them.

  2. What a wonderful selection of books and on such an important topic too. Having moved to France 2 years ago I now feel it would be good for every person to have the experience of being an immigrant for a year in their lives at least. It teaches us so much I think about people an the things that can bind us together such as love, kindness, laughter and food. I am tempted to read all the books you mention here. #ReadWithMe

    1. Absolutely! I lived in France for a year when I was a student too! Gosh I miss some of the food (in particular) so much!

  3. What a wonderful selection. I really like All Are Welcome. These would all work well in schools! #readwithme

    1. They all would be perfect for classes! All Are Welcome is a favourite of mine too!