Muslims in Kidlit Friday: Refugee experiences

Today President Trump signed an executive order that halts the processing of refugees to the U.S. for four months. He cited national security concerns and said “We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”

That statement describes most refugees. Shutting them out is profoundly un-empathetic.

Reading about refugee experiences is the opposite. Reaching out to refugees in your community all the more so.

Here are two children’s books about refugees (one picture book, one middle grade). The characters in these books are Muslim, but not all refugees are Muslim. See here and here for some more lists of children’s books about refugees.

Four Feet, Two SandalsFour Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s description: When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one. As the girls go about their routines washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important. Four Feet, Two Sandals was inspired by a refugee girl who asked the authors why there were no books about children like her. With warm colors and sensitive brush strokes, this book portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear.

My review: When a relief truck delivers clothing to a refugee camp in Pakistan, Lina and Feroza each find one yellow sandal. The two girls share the sandals, along with their daily chores, memories of lost family members, and hopes for a new home. After Lina and her mother get word they will be resettled in America, the girls decide what will happen to the sandals, but the future of their friendship (and lives) remains unknown.
This touching story opens a window onto life in a refugee camp in a heartfelt, non-didactic way, as well as speaking to the meaning of friendship. Timely and timeless.

The Red PencilThe Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

RELATED: 2 Picture Books about Welcoming All People (and Pets)

Political violence from a child’s eyes: I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

I first read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank in third grade. I distinctly remember thinking it was a FAT book. Child view of the world right there. Imagine if I’d seen a copy of Moby Dick! I don’t know how I got my hands on that book — my teacher? a sibling? — but I’m certain I read it solely for the accomplishment, because my seven-year-old mind didn’t really grasp the moral weight of it.

Yes, I got that the Frank family were hiding from persecution. But the scale of the Holocaust and the testament to the human spirit that Anne’s voice became?

I was a little too busy pretending I was an alien from a planet called Orton for that. (True story.)

Three years later, however, several classmates and I plowed through stacks of books set during the Holocaust. Some of the stories were true, like The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender. Many were fictionalized based on real events. I’ve forgotten most of the titles, but I remember snippets of other details. Like kids hiding at a school when Nazis came (a Google search says that’s from a book called Twenty and Ten), or a litle girl peering through a a hole in a suffocating cattle car on the way to a concentration camp.

We may have talked about the Holocaust in class, but I honestly don’t remember that. Memoirs and fiction were the primary way I learned about concentration camps and Jewish ghettos and genocide.

Now that I’m older, though, I also know about mass atrocities in other places throughout the world and modern times. And I wonder why I didn’t read books told from the perspective of kids living through, say, the Trail of Tears, or Argentina’s Dirty War?

Enter I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín. I stumbled upon this middle-grade novel, published by Simon & Schuster in March, last week at the library. What a find! Continue reading