Refugees: Books for Middle Grades

These books tell refugee stories geared towards readers in middle grades. While they don't shy away from depicting violent conflicts, they are generally less graphic than the selections for older readers.

Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Over a million South Vietnamese children were orphaned by the Vietnam War. This affecting true account tells the story of Long, who, like more than 40,000 other orphans, is Amerasian — a mixed-race child — with little future in Vietnam. Escape from Saigon allows readers to experience Long's struggle to survive in war-torn Vietnam, his dramatic escape to America as part of "Operation Babylift" during the last chaotic days before the fall of Saigon, and his life in the United States as "Matt," part of a loving Ohio family.

Girl of Kosovo

Age Level: 9-12

Even after her father and brothers are killed and her leg is gravely injured in a Serb attack, 11-year-old Zana, the narrator, struggles to heed her father's advice: "Don't let them fill your heart with hate. Whatever happens." Zana's friendship with a Serbian girl, Lena, and her trip behind enemy lines to a hospital in Belgrade provide Zana with evidence of kindness to weigh against the brutality in the Serb faction, while her cowardly KLA uncle Vizar illuminates weaknesses among the Albanians. Mead puts the war into a context that young readers will understand.

Home of the Brave

Age Level: 9-12

This novel, written in free verse, tells the story of Kek, an eleven-year-old boy from the Sudan who arrives as a refugee to Minnesota in the middle of winter. In moments both amusing and heartbreaking, it is possible to see through Kek's eyes what it is like for new immigrants who come to this country and to think about the scars that war leaves on its youngest victims. Teacher's Guide available.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

Illustrated by: Lee White
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile — until the time comes when even Celeste, with her head in the clouds, can't deny the political unrest that is sweeping through the country and is eventually sent by her parents to Maine. Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet's catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful.

Inside Out and Back Again

Age Level: 9-12

Shortly before the fall of Saigon in 1975, Hà's family flees war-torn Vietnam. When they arrive in Alabama more than 3 months later as refugees, they struggle to adapt to a new life. Yet slowly Hà and her family begin to find their way, making friends in unexpected places and helping each other survive. Based on the childhood experiences of the author, this compelling novel won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Mai Ya's Long Journey

Age Level: 9-12

Mai Ya's Long Journey follows Mai Ya Xiong, a young Hmong woman, from her childhood in Thailand's Ban Vinai Refugee Camp to her current home in Wisconsin. Mai Ya's parents fled Laos during the Vietnam War and were refugees in Thailand for several years before reaching the United States. But the story does not end there. Students will read the challenges Mai Ya faces in balancing her Hmong heritage and her adopted American culture as she grows into adulthood.

Out of Iraq: Refugees' Stories in Words, Paintings and Music

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Since 2006, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees have fled to other countries. This book provides, in words and pictures, a glimpse of what life was like in Iraq before they left, why they were forced to flee, and how they feel about life as a refugee. Their stories are set against background information about Iraq, Saddam Hussain's rule, the invasion, and the subsequent civil war. The role of the United Nations High Commissions for Refugees (UNHCR) is outlined, and ideas for using the book in the classroom are also included.

Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town (Young Readers Edition)

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: This young people's version of the adult bestseller, Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference, is a complex and inspirational story about the Fugees, a youth soccer team in Clarkson, Georgia made up of diverse refugees from around the world, and their formidable female coach, Luma Mufleh. The author explores how the community changed with the influx of refugees and how the dedication of Lumah Mufleh and the entire Fugees soccer team inspired an entire community.

Parvana's Journey

Age Level: 9-12

"In this sequel to The Breadwinner (2001), 13-year-old Parvana buries her father, disguises herself as a boy, and sets out across war-torn Afghanistan to find the surviving members of her family. Along the way, she rescues a baby and meets two other children: contentious Asif, who has lost a leg, and hopeful Leila, who believes she has magical powers that protect her against the land mines on their journey. Together the four children battle starvation, bombings, and despair before reaching a camp that offers them some glimmer of hope for the future." — Booklist

Serafina's Promise

Age Level: 9-12

11-year-old Serafina lives in the rural mountains of Haiti, helping her mother and grandmother with chores and hauling water up to the house each day. Secretly, however, Serafina wishes to go to school and become a doctor. Yet when the rains wash away their house and the 2010 earthquake strikes in Port-au-Prince, where her father works, the possibility of attending school seem even more tenuous — but Serafina isn't ready to give her dreams up yet. Ann Burg's lyrical, award-winning story is told in free verse with Haitian proverbs and French and Creole phrases woven throughout.

Shooting Kabul

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: As Fadi's family is preparing to flee to the U.S., Fadi's little sister is lost. The family leaves her behind, but adjusting to life in the United States isn't easy and as the events of September 11th unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in a war-torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. Based in part on the Ms. Senzai's husband's own experience fleeing his home in Soviet controlled Afghanistan in the 1970s.

Tangled Threads

Age Level: 9-12

"Thirteen-year-old Laotian Mai Yang and her grandmother have survived the war that killed Mai's parents and 10 years in a Thai camp for Hmong refugees, so Mai is excited when immigration to the U.S. appears imminent…With the help of a compassionate teacher and sympathetic new friends, Mai becomes comfortable with American ways even as her grandmother isolates herself and fears assimilation. As seen through Mai's eyes, the wry observations of American habits are amusing and insightful.

The Breadwinner

Age Level: 9-12

"Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana has rarely been outdoors. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, the heroine of Deborah Ellis's engrossing children's novel The Breadwinner is trapped inside her family's one-room home. That is, until the Taliban hauls away her father and Parvana realizes that it's up to her to become the 'breadwinner' and disguise herself as a boy to support her mother, two sisters, and baby brother." — Amazon.com Review

The Stone Goddess

Age Level: 9-12

"When the Khmer Rouge takes over Cambodia, the Sokha family flees Phnom Penh along with thousands of other city dwellers. Nakri, almost 13, winds up in a brutal labor camp along with older siblings Teeda and Boran. Trained as a classical dancer, Teeda nurses Nakri through an illness and inspires her with her dedication to dance. Only Nakri and Boran survive the camp, rejoining the remnants of their family who journey to a refugee camp on Thailand's border. Eventually they immigrate to the U.S., where Nakri begins a confusing new life.

Words In The Dust

Age Level: 9-12

"Born with a cleft lip, Zulaikha struggles to feel worth in a society that values women by their marriage prospects…Then, by chance, Zulaikha meets Meena, a former professor, who begins to teach her to read and write just as American soldiers arrive, bringing the chance for both more education and surgery to correct Zulaikha's birth defect.