Inspiring Books about Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Explaining the issue of asylum to pupils can be a challenging, topic to approach, but books are an excellent medium to easily navigate complex themes.

1. No Ballet Shoes in Syria- Catherine Bruton (9-11 years)

No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton is recommended for 9+ and is an amazing story about a young Syrian refugee and how a ballet class reignites a part of her life that seemed lost forever.

Aya is a Syrian asylum seeker, looking after her mother and baby brother in the cold, unfamiliar city of Manchester – but she is also a talented ballet dancer. One day she encounters a ballet class led by the elegant Miss Helena. As the book unfolds, she finds new friends and learns to depend on “the kindness of strangers”.

2. Azzi in Between- Sarah Garland (8 years+)

An accessible story told as a graphic novel that will appeal to readers of all levels, Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland tells the story of Azzi and her family who flee to escape war, and what comes after. Azzi has to learn a new language, live among strangers and discover an unfamiliar country. Drawing on her own experience of working among refugee families, renowned author and illustrator Sarah Garland tells, with tenderness and humour, an exciting adventure story to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

3. The Colour of Home- Mary Hoffman (7-8 years)

The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman outlines the struggles of refugees in a unique picture book format. On Hassan’s first day at school, he paints a colourful picture of his home and family in Somalia but adds the harsh reality of war that forced him to leave his home.  The story shows how Hassan adapts to this strange place, but also how he begins to see hope, change and future as well.

4. Nisha’s War- Dan Smith (10-11 years)

A book for more mature readers, Nisha’s War by Dan Smith is set during the Second World War across Singapore and Northern England. Nisha and her mother arrive in the cold North of England, after escaping the Japanese invasion of Singapore, at her father’s family home. When her mother falls ill, Nisha agrees to the deal of a ghostly child to save her mother in exchange for three truths. The story conveys difficult themes of mental health, war and bereavement.

5. The Boy at the Back of the Class- Onjali Q Raúf (9-11 years)

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Raúf portrays a child’s perspective of being a young asylum seeker, the refugee crisis and understanding war. Ahmet is a young nine-year-old boy, who is starting at a new school as a refugee from Syria. Readers follow Ahmet as he makes new friends and key themes of facing prejudice, friendship and kindness.

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