Refugee Council of Australia
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Books about refugees

Picture books

Rainbow Bird (2007)

By Czenya Cavouras

Rainbow Bird is a deeply moving children’s picture book written and illustrated by 14 year old Czenya Cavouras, who is now in high school. It tells the story of a refugee journey from a destroyed homeland to a desolate detention centre and finally, to future of hope. Rainbow Bird is quietly harrowing, has a unique author voice, and is ultimately inspiring and uplifting.

The Little Refugee (2011)

By Anh Do

Based on the autobiographical novel by comedian Anh Do, this book tells the inspiring and uplifting story of Anh’s family from their dangerous journey by boat from Vietnam to their struggle to establish a new life in Australia.

Letters to Grandma Grace (1999)

By Victoria Francis

An African refugee family’s experiences in their country of asylum are told through letters from the children to their Grandma Grace. The letters illustrate the difficulties and hardships they face in adapting to their new home.

The Island (2007)

By Armin Greder

This book is a metaphorical account of the way in which prejudice and fear create artificial barriers between people which they use to exclude others in order to ‘protect’ themselves. It offers reasons for why refugees exist and why detention centres and refugee camps have become so prevalent throughout the world.

My Dog (2001)

By John Heffernan

My Dog is a very moving, understated story in picture book format suitable for 8-12 year olds. Seen through the eyes of a young boy, it tells of the terrible suffering as a consequence of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. This book would serve as a moving introduction to discussion on human rights and suffering.

Home (2021)

By Karen Hendriks and Alisa Knato.

A book telling the story of the forced displacement of Sudeten Germans from former Czechoslovakia after WWII and eventual arrival in Australia through eyes of young child.  War ends, yet its dark shadow remain. A family is forced to flee their home. As they journey through hunger, long cold nights, and homelessness, a heart locket whispers words of hope. And a country that’s far away, calls for those that are no longer wanted. It offers new beginnings and a precious place, once more to call home.

The Colour of Home (2002)

By Mary Hoffman

This book is about the difficulties refugees may face adjusting to a new environment. Hassan feels out of place in a new, cold, grey country. At school, he paints a picture showing his colourful Somalian home, covered with the harsh colours of war from which his family has fled. He tells his teacher about their voyage from Mogadishu to Mombasa, then to the refugee camp and on to England. But gradually things change. When Hassan’s parents put up his next picture on the wall, Hassan notices the maroon prayer mat, a bright green cushion and his sister Naima’s pink dress: the new colours of home.

My Brother is a Soldier (1999)

By Clare M. G. Kemp

This story tells of the return of a child soldier to his village in Africa and the problems he faces in trying to reintegrate and lead a normal life.

Cry Baby (1998)

By Lynn Kramer

Cry Baby is a story of a young refugee girl who finds herself in a new home after fleeing from war. Zione has difficulty making new friends because the other children see her as different. However, she overcomes this by demonstrating through a heroic act that she is really no different from the other children.

On the Other Side of the Hill (1999)

By Sibylla Martin

In this story, Jacques finds himself in a refugee camp and has trouble making friends with the local children. However, a football match between the children from the refugee camp and the local populations brings the children together.

The Lost Children (1998)

By Sibylla Martin

The Lost Children recounts the story of how young Ibuka becomes separated from her family when fleeing her home and comes to find herself, along with her younger brother, at a centre for lost children.

Refugees (2005)

By David Miller

In David Miller’s book, two wild ducks become refugees when their swamp is drained. Their journey in search of a new place to live exposes them to danger, rejection and violence before they are given a new home. Their story is told with brightly coloured three-dimensional paper sculptures in this attractive picture book for young children.

Grandfather’s Journey (1993)

By Allen Say

This is picture book is suitable for students aged nine and over. Allen Say’s grandfather made the journey from Japan to the United States when he was a young man and this story beautifully describes through text and illustrations the love that he and his grandson feel for both countries. Many students will relate to the feelings of longing that are captured.

The Arrival (2007)

By Shaun Tan

This is a text-less picture book which tells the story of an immigrant’s journey to a new land where he knows no one and understands very little. Yet on his arrival to the new country, he meets friends who help him and tell stories about how they too came to the new land. Through these stories children can learn about the experiences of a variety of immigrant families.

A Safe Place to Live (2011)

By Bic Walker

A true story based on the journey of the author’s family from Vietnam to Austalia as refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

One Day We Had To Run: Refugee children tell their stories in words and paintings (1995)

By Sybella Wilkes

This book tells the stories of three children who were forced to become refugees. The children’s stories and paintings are set against background information about Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, which helps to explain why refugees have been forced to flee from these countries. The roles of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children are outlined, and ideas for using this book in the school classroom are also included.

Brothers in Hope: Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan (2005)

By Mary Williams

Based on true events, this moving picture book tells the story of Garang, an eight-year-old Sudanese boy forced to embark on an epic journey across deserts and mountains to Ethiopia and eventually to Kenya after his family and village are overtaken by war whilst he is away tending cattle. He joins a band of over 1,000 boys, some as young as five, who share his predicament. Despite the hardships of a perilous journey and years spent in refugee camps, Garang occupies himself with the welfare of younger boys, seizes any educational opportunity, and never loses hope of a new life in a permanent place of safety.

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