Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books about Immigration, Refugees, and Being Kind

It’s been a heck of a year or four. While we’re thinking back and being thankful for what we have, let’s keep in mind those people who need even more kindness, more understanding, more care. And let’s hope that the coming year will be kinder to all of us, and bring understanding and reunion to those who have been taken from their families.

A Journey Toward Hope, by Victor Hinojosa & Coert Voorhees/Illustrated by Susan Guevara, (Aug. 2020, Six Foot Press), $19.95, ISBN: 9781644420089

Ages 6-8

Four children set out across Central America, leaving their homes and families for different reasons, to find a new life in the United States. They come together as they journey through Mexico and form a family unit of their own as they travel into the States in this hopeful story. The children in the book come from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, fleeing violence and poverty, and represent the 50,000 unaccompanied minors who present themselves to the United States border every year seeking asylum and refuge. A Journey Toward Hope weaves these four lives together and gives readers a glimpse into the fear and the peril each child faces in their quest for a better life. Muted colors are beautiful and blend together to tell this quietly powerful tale, and each child is represented by a folk art rendering of an animal that tells readers something about their character: a jaguar, a bird, a monkey, a butterfly.

Back matter includes additional information and resources created by Baylor University’s Global Hunger and Migration Project. Visit A Journey Toward Hope‘s website and the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to learn even more.

A beautifully written book that deserves a place in collections.

 

Sugar in Milk, by Thrity Umrigar/Illustrated by Khoa Le, (Oct. 2020, Running Press Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9780762495191

Ages 4-8

A young girl arrives in a new country to live with her aunt and uncle. She’s lonely; she misses her friends and her home, and wishes she could make new friends in her new home. Her aunt takes her on a walk one day and tells her a folk tale of how, long ago, people in Persia were forced to leave their home and sought refuge in India; the local king met them and – since language was a barrier – explained, using a glass of milk, that his country had no room to accommodate the new arrivals. The Persian leader took the cup of milk and stirred in sugar; he didn’t spill a drop, thus illustrating that his people would only sweeten everyone’s lives with their presence. The king laughed and welcomed the new people to his land. The girl is inspired to reach out, and discovers that it’s easier than she imagined to make new friends: and she carries around a packet of sugar to remind herself of the tale.

The story is a myth that was part of author Thrity Umrigar’s Zoroastrian upbringing as a Parsi child in India, but will resonate with everyone who hears the tale; especially families of immigrants and refugees. The artwork is stunning; rich, deep colors look like tapestries as the girl’s aunt recounts her story. There are gorgeous touches of cultural artwork throughout the story, including richly woven rugs and artwork. The fall colors are incredible. I’d hang every page of this book up in my library if I could.

Sugar in Milk has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Put a copy in every pair of hands you can find and discuss the need for empathy and understanding, and how a diverse community enriches the lives of everyone in the community.

 

Counting Kindness: Ten Ways to Welcome Refugee Children, by Hollis Kurman/Illustrated by Barroux, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781623542290

Ages 4-7

A sweet counting concept book that encourages kindness and awareness of refugee and immigrant children, Counting Kindness starts by telling readers that “When a place gets so scary that we have to leave home, every kindness counts”. A brown-skinned mother leaves a smoking homestead with her two children and an infant, encountering moments of kindness that include “two hands lifting us to safety; four beds keeping us safe and warm; nine hearts welcoming us to our new school”. The story illustrates, in gentle watercolors, how crucial it is to others to receive kindness and open arms. Back matter includes links to humanitarian organizations. The characters are cartoony and cute, but the message is real; words and text come together to create a heartwarming, yet heart-aching, statement that explains to younger readers as well as school-aged readers that there is a need for welcoming and empathy in our world. Count along with your kiddos as you read; consider, if you have the ability, to count cans or possessions you can donate.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

A mother’s love letter to her daughter: When I Carried You In My Belly

When I Carried You In My Belly, by Thrity Umrigar/Illustrated by Ziyue Chen, (Apr. 2017, Running Press Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6058-8

Recommended for readers 3-7

A mother explains where all of her daughter’s wonderful qualities were born: as she grew in her mother’s belly. Her mother laughed so hard that baby laughed, too; that’s why she has a great laugh today. Her grandmother’s loving hands built her crib, and grandfather made sweets to eat; that’s why she dreams softly at night and is so sweet. Her mother sangs joyful songs in different languages, and that’s why the girl feels at home anywhere in the world. It’s a sweet love story between mother and daughter, but also illustrates the love and importance of family.

This is a first picture book for author Thrity Umrigar, who hopes that children will come away understanding the importance of family and the importance of being kind and generous. Her text – a mother lavishing praise on her daughter while reminiscing about her pregnancy – combined with Ziyue Chen’s joyful illustrations featuring multicultural characters, invites children to laugh and play together, part of a world community.

This is a great baby shower gift: the story embraces motherhood, empowers mothers to love their bodies (mom happily belly dances with a beautiful bare midriff), and encourages mother-child interaction from the womb. I remember the little tickles and wiggles I felt with each of my boys even now. I remember playing with them, pushing on my belly in one spot and the delight in seeing a little hand (or foot) push back in response. It’s also a good reading choice for a discussion group, to get moms talking with one another, and their children, about their own pregnancies and what they love about their children. When I Carried You in My Belly is a love letter from mother to child, and a love letter to mothers everywhere.

Display this with books on family and individuality. I like Mary Ann Hoberman’s All Kinds of Families, Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers, The Family Book, by Todd Parr, and What I Like About Me, by Allia Zobel-Nolan.

Thrity Umrigar is the bestselling author of a memoir and six novels, including The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and The Story Hour. Her books, articles, and more information is available via her website. Ziyue Chen’s work has been recognized in the 3×3 Picture Book Show (2014), SCBWI’s SI Scholarship (2013), the Society of Illustrators’ Student Scholarship Show (2013), and Creative Quarterly (2012). You can see more of her illustration at her website.