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Immigrant and Refugee Families — Stories and Resources

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Adrift at Sea: a Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, with Tuan Ho, Illustrated by Brian Deines, $22.95 http://www.parentbooks.ca/thumbs/tiny%20maple%20leaf.JPG

It is 1981. In the middle of the South China Sea, a fishing boat overloaded with 60 Vietnamese refugees drifts. The motor has failed; the hull is leaking; the drinking water is nearly gone. This is the dramatic true story recounted by Tuan Ho, who was six years old when he, his mother, and two sisters dodged the bullets of Vietnam’s military police for the perilous chance of boarding that boat. Illustrated with sweeping oil paintings and complete with an expansive historical and biographical section with photographs, this non-fiction picture book is all the more important as the world responds to a new generation of refugees risking all on the open water for the chance at safety and a new life.


The Arrival. Shaun Tan, $26.99

The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment. He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope.


The Blessing Cup. Patricia Polacco, $19.99

As a young Russian Jewish girl in the early 1900s, Anna and her family lived in fear of the Czar’s soldiers. The family lived a hard life and had few possessions — their treasure was a beautiful china tea set. A wedding gift to Anna’s parents, the tea set came with a wish that “Anyone who drinks from this will have blessings from God. They will never know a day of hunger. Their lives will always have flavor. They will know love and joy and they will never be poor.”

When Anna’s family leaves Russia for America, they bring the tea set and its blessings. A source of heritage and security, the tea set helps Anna’s family make friends and find better lives in America. A cup from the tea set — The Blessing Cup — became an anchor of family history, and it remains a symbol of lasting love more than a century later. This tender tribute to the importance of loving lineage is a prequel and companion to the perennial bestseller The Keeping Quilt and is told and illustrated with authenticity and tremendous heart.

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Child Health Across Cultures: the Health, Wellbeing and Special Needs of Children from Diverse Backgrounds - a Resource for Teachers and Others with an Interest in Strengthening the Health of Children Experiencing More Than One Culture. Judith Colbert, $29.95 http://www.parentbooks.ca/images/tiny%20maple%20leaf.JPG

Child Health Across Cultures focuses on the critical importance of child health among diverse at-risk populations. By drawing on international research in various fields, author Judith Colbert explores global patterns of health and dis/ability, and recommendations for responding to health issues.

The book invites educators, clinicians and others to take steps toward providing the knowledge and support needed to promote the physical, mental, and social health of all members of the community - including vulnerable immigrant and newcomer children.


The Colour of Home. Mary Hoffman & Karin Littlewood, $9.95

Mary Hoffman's story of a refugee child, illustrated by Karin Littlewood's sensitive art, introduces the issue of asylum to a young audience. This compassionate book will be a great resource for classrooms, homes and libraries.


The Day I Became a Canadian: a Citizenship Scrapbook. Jo Bannatyne Gugnet, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang, $12.99 http://www.parentbooks.ca/images/tiny%20maple%20leaf.JPG

On a snowy morning, little Xiao Ling Li and her parents are about to take part in a ceremony — one that will make them Canadian citizens. To record the day for her new brother or sister, she decides to keep a scrapbook to treasure the day.

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From Far Away. Robert Munsch & Saoussan Askar, illustrated by Rebecca Green, $23.95

Although first published in 1995, From Far Away is more relevant today than it has ever been. This story is based on the real-life experience of Saoussan Askar, who emigrated with her family from war-torn Lebanon when she was seven years old. While still in elementary school, Saoussan wrote to bestselling author Robert Munsch about her situation. Together, they turned her story into a book. This updated edition, with revised text including a note from Saoussan today and fresh, new illustrations, belongs in every classroom. Young children who themselves have arrived as immigrants will readily relate to Saoussan’s frustrations of not understanding the teacher, not knowing how to ask to go to the bathroom, and being terrified of a prop skeleton. From Far Away will also help sensitize other children to the difficulties experienced by their immigrant classmates.


The Great Diversity Debate: Embracing Pluralism in School and Society. Kent Koppelman, $35.50

The Great Diversity Debate describes the presence and growth of diversity in the United States from its earliest years to the present. The author describes the evolution of the concept of pluralism from a philosophical term to a concept used in many disciplines and with global significance. Rather than assuming that diversity is a benefit, Koppelman investigates the ways in which diversity is actually experienced and debated across critical sectors of social experience, including immigration, affirmative action, education, and national identity, among others. Koppelman takes the sometimes complicated arguments for and against diversity in school and in society and lays out the benefits with great clarity and simplicity making this book accessible to a large audience.


Here I Am. Patti Kim, $8.95

Newly arrived from their faraway homeland, a boy and his family enter into the lights, noise, and traffic of a busy American city in this dazzling wordless picture book. The language is unfamiliar. Food, habits, games, and gestures are puzzling. They boy clings tightly to his special keepsake from home and wonders how he will find his way. How will he once again become the happy, confident kid he used to be? Walk in his shoes as he takes the first tentative steps toward discovering joy in his new world. A poignant and affirming view of the immigrant experience.

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I’m New Here. Anne Sibley O’Brien,$18.95

Maria is from Spain, Jin is from Korea, and Fatima is from Somalia. All three are new to their American elementary school, and each has trouble speaking, writing, and sharing ideas in English. Through self-determination and with encouragement from their peers and teachers, the students learn to feel confident and comfortable in their new school without losing a sense of their home country, language, and identity. 


Immigration. Harriet Brundle, $26.99 (K-2)

  • What does it mean to be an immigrant?
  • Why do people move to a new home?
  • How does it feel when they get there?

This informative title answers all the big questions on immigration and helps children to understand this topical issue from a range of perspectives. Modern images and accessible text make each page engaging for young readers.


Joseph's Big Ride. Terry Farish, illustrated by Ken Daley, $12.95

A refugee boy’s determination to ride a bicycle leads to an unexpected friendship.

Joseph wants only one thing: to ride a bike. In the refugee camp where he lives, Joseph helps one of the older boys fix his bike, but he’s too small to ride it.

Joseph and his mother travel to America, where everything is strange and new. One day, he spots a red bike that seems just right for him! It belongs to a girl with a whoosh of curly hair.

When Whoosh crashes her bike, Joseph offers to fix it. His big chance has finally come, except that Joseph doesn’t know how to ride! He falls a few times, picks himself up, and tries again, until suddenly, with a shout of triumph, he’s riding the bike.

Inspired by the author’s interviews with refugee children from Sudan, this gentle story evokes the experience of a new immigrant. Vibrantly colorful paintings bring a warm and humorous portrait of friendship and diversity to life.

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The Journey. Francesca Sanna, $25.95

“I look up to the birds that seem to be following us. They are migrating just like us. And their journey, like ours, is very long, but they don’t have to cross any borders.”

What is it like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? A mother and her two children set out on such a journey; one filled with fear of the unknown, but also great hope. Based on her interactions with people forced to seek a new home, and told from the perspective of a young child, Francesca Sanna has created a beautiful and sensitive book that is full of significance for our time.


Lailah's Lunchbox: a Ramadan Story. Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Lea Lyon, $10.95

Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, and missing her old friends. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting but worried that her classmates won’t understand why she doesn’t join them in the lunchroom. Lailah solves her problem with help from the school librarian and her teacher and in doing so learns that she can make new friends who respect her beliefs.


Malaika's Winter Carnival. Nadia Hohn, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher, $18.95

Malaika is happy to be reunited with Mummy, but it means moving to Canada, where everything is different. It’s cold in Québec City, no one understands when she talks and Carnival is nothing like the celebration Malaika knows from home!

When Mummy marries Mr. Frédéric, Malaika gets a new sister called Adèle. Her new family is nice, but Malaika misses Grandma. She has to wear a puffy purple coat, learn a new language and get used to calling this new place home. Things come to a head when Mummy and Mr. Frédéric take Malaika and Adèle to a carnival. Malaika is dismayed that there are no colorful costumes and that it’s nothing like Carnival at home in the Caribbean! She is so angry that she kicks over Adèle’s snow castle, but that doesn’t make her feel any better. It takes a video chat with Grandma to help Malaika see the good things about her new home and family.

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My Beautiful Birds. Suzanne Del Rizzo, $19.95

Behind Sami, the Syrian skyline is full of smoke. The boy follows his family and all his neighbours in a long line, as they trudge through the sands and hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes. But all Sami can think of is his pet pigeons — will they escape too? He can’t forget his birds and what his family has left behind. Until, one day a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp. They flutter around Sami and settle on his outstretched arms. For Sami it is one step in a long healing process at last.

A gentle yet moving story of refugees of the Syrian civil war, My Beautiful Birds illuminates the ongoing crisis as it affects its children. It shows the reality of the refugee camps, where people attempt to pick up their lives and carry on. And it reveals the hope of generations of people as they struggle to redefine home.


The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens. Brooke Hauser, $20.00 (includes a reading group guide)

Some walked across deserts and mountains. Others flew on planes. One arrived after escaping in a suitcase. And some won't say how they got here. A singular work of narrative journalism, The New Kids chronicles a year in the life of a remarkable group of these teenage newcomers, who all attend the International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn.  The unforgettable portraits of young people dealing with enormous obstacles, as they carve out new lives for themselves, will leave you rooting for these kids long after reading the stories of where they come from, how they got here and where they are going next.


Our New Home: Immigrant Children Speak. Edited by Emily Hearn & Marywinn Milne, $13.95 http://www.parentbooks.ca/images/tiny%20maple%20leaf.JPG

What is it like to leave home and arrive in a place where everything is new — language, weather, customs and people?

Every year families from around the world leave their homes to start a new life in a new place and they each have a story. In Our New Home, children use their writing and artwork to share these stories with us. Their words and pictures tell of the fear and sadness, the excitement and challenge of moving to a new country and starting a new life.

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OUT. Angela May George & Owen Swan, $14.99

I'm called an asylum seeker, but that's not my name. We came here on a boat. Our trip took so long, sometimes I wondered if I would ever walk on grass again.

A brave little girl and her mother escape a war-torn land. On the difficult sea voyage there is little to eat, but there is abundant love and caring. Her adopted country offers a safe place to live, a new school, and supportive friends. There are also hurtful labels, flashbacks, and the ever-present ache of a missing father. Over time there’s a new job for her mother, time for play, music — even dancing! — and hope for the future.

Timely, powerful and moving, Out celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the darkest times, and the many paths people take to build a new life.


Piece by Piece: Stories About Fitting Into Canada. Teresa Toten, $20.00

This new anthology features stories by some of Canada's finest authors who were born in another country and who went through the experience of trying to "fit in." From the shock of first impressions to the first stirrings of "becoming Canadian" and what that meant to them, this collection speaks of a powerful desire to be accepted, to feel at home.


Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees, and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart with Words. Marion Baraitser, $45.95

This book explores how literature can be used to help young victims cope with their experiences. The process of reading, discussing and rewriting carefully selected texts can have a significant therapeutic impact, as the young person identifies his or her own experience in the narrative. This book guides readers through all aspects of implementing biblio/narrative therapy with children and adolescents, from the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding the psychological needs of the child to providing more practical information on how to choose the right text and encourage expression through the spoken and written word. It includes exercises for use in sessions, an analysis of the importance of symbol when working therapeutically with children, and a complete account of the ethics of good practice. Drawing on the author's innovative work with young asylum seekers and refugees, and with an overview of the latest research in creativity, language and memory, the book provides a comprehensive and practical resource on the use of literature to help young victims regain their dignity and overcome the overwhelmed hurt self.

This book will be of immeasurable value to students and practitioners world-wide in arts and health care who work with traumatised young people, including counsellors, clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, teachers, psychotherapists and social workers.

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Refugees. Harriet Brundle, $26.99 (K-2)

  • Why do people become refugees?
  • How does it feel to be a refugee?
  • How do refugees travel to a new home?

Illustrated with photos and engaging graphics, Refugees offers young readers an opportunity to ask — and perhaps find answers to — some difficult questions about a complex issue.


Refugees and Migrants. Ceri Roberts & Hanane Kai, $12.50 (ages 6-10)

The Children in Our World picture book series helps children make sense of the larger issues and crises that dominate the news in a sensitive and appropriate manner. With relatable comparisons, carefully researched text and striking illustrations, children can begin to understand who refugees and migrants are, why they've left their homes, where they live and what readers can do to help those in need.

Where issues aren't appropriate to describe in words, Hanane Kai's striking and sensitive illustrations help children visualise in images that are suited to their age and disposition. The series forms an excellent cross-curricular resource that looks at refugees, war, poverty and racism making them ideal for tying into discussions on current affairs.


Stepping Stones: a Refugee Family's Journey. Margaret Ruurs, illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr, $20.00

Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe. Nizar Ali Badr’s stunning stone images illustrate the story.

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Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees. Mary Beth Leatherdale & Eleanor Shakespeare, $14.95 (grades 5-8)

The plight of refugees risking their lives at sea has, unfortunately, made the headlines all too often in the past few years. This book presents five true stories, from 1939 to today, about young people who lived through the harrowing experience of setting sail in search of asylum: Ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape Nazism; Phu sets out alone from war-torn Vietnam; José tries to reach the United States from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan and the Taliban; and after losing his family, Mohamed abandons his village on the Ivory Coast in search of a new life.

Stormy Seas combines a vivid and contemporary collage-based design with dramatic storytelling to produce a book that makes for riveting reading as well as a source of timely information. These remarkable accounts will give readers a keen appreciation of the devastating effects of war and poverty on youth like themselves, and helps put the mounting current refugee crisis into stark context.


Supporting Refugee Children: Strategies for Educators. Jan Stewart, $34.95 http://www.parentbooks.ca/images/tiny%20maple%20leaf.JPG

Supporting Refugee Children covers the lived experiences of refugee children who immigrate to North America and the challenges and successes that these children and their families experience; the systems, structures, or programs that assist with the process of adjustment for refugee children; and strategies and activities that help newcomer children adjust to life after migration. Each chapter begins with a case study or personal story about the experience of a refugee child or family to illustrate the key issues discussed. A concluding chapter offers recommendations for policy and practice.


Welcoming Newcomer Children: the Settlement of Young Immigrants and Refugees - a Resource for Teachers and Others with an Interest in Supporting Young Newcomers from Birth though Kindergarten. Judith Colbert, $29.95 http://www.parentbooks.ca/images/tiny%20maple%20leaf.JPG

Welcoming Newcomer Children offers a new and comprehensive perspective on child settlement. Drawing on international research in various fields,  the book examines values and beliefs from a non-western point of view, questioning accepted practices, priorities & standards. Author Judith Colbert suggests new strategies for working with children from birth through kindergarten.  The book invites reader reflection,  and supports teachers with:

  • Implications for Practice
  • 10 Mainstream Benchmarks of Quality
  • Fully referenced Bibliography & Index
  • Professional practices that sustain program quality

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When I Get Older: the Story Behind “Wavin’ Flag. K’naan, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, $19.99

K’nann tells the story of his early life in Mogadishu, Somalia, and of the difficulties of being a child refugee in a land far from home. This is the story that inspired K’naan’s famous anthem “Wavin’ Flag”, a song known the world over, that speaks of freedom and dignity.


Where Will I Live? Rosemary McCarney, $19.95

Every child needs a home. They need somewhere safe where they can be happy, eat their meals with their family, play with their toys, and go to sleep at night feeling unafraid. But many children all over the world have had to leave their homes because they are no longer safe. Because of war and conflict, they and their families have become refugees. For them life is hard and full of questions. In spite of everything, they find time to laugh, play, and make friends. And most importantly, they have hope that somewhere, someone will welcome them to a new home.

Written by Rosemary McCarney, Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations, Where Will I Live? will help children whose lives are not directly affected by this crisis think about the importance of home, and what life is like for a child refugee who does not have a permanent, safe home to shelter them and their family. The beautiful photographs in this book were taken by the UNHCR — the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — and include images of children on the move and in refugee camps in countries such as Lebanon, Rwanda, Iraq, Niger, Hungary, Jordan, South Sudan, and Greece.

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