Immigrant School Stories

Summer is over — it’s officially September, and the K-12 school year is starting up again to the chagrin of the children and the relief of the parents. But what about when school doesn’t just mean the end of summer, but a new, sometimes scary, beginning? Being the new kid in class can be hard on anyone, but the following books focus on the experiences of immigrant children and adolescents from around the world as they begin their education in a new country…with all the challenges and triumphs that entails. Encourage the young readers in your life to try a new kind of school story this September — one that might change the way they think about the new kid in their class.

To find school stories like those below, try keyword search terms like “immigrant” and “school” combined with a subject search of “juvenile fiction.”

Picture Books

Marianthe’s Story One: Painted Words / Marianthe’s Story Two: Spoken Memories. 1998.
Two separate stories in one book: the first telling of Mari’s starting school in a new land, and the second describing village life in her country before she and her family left in search of a better life.
[Center for Children’s Books and SSHEL S-Collection Q. S.Al44m]

Colato Laínez, René.
René has Two Last Names / René Tiene Dos Apellidos. 2009.
In this story based on the author’s childhood, a young Salvadoran immigrant is teased for having two last names until he presents his family tree project celebrating his heritage.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. SE. C673r]

Cox, Judy.
Carmen Learns English. 2010.
Newly-arrived in the United States from Mexico, Carmen is apprehensive about going to school and learning English.
[SSHEL S-Collection SE. C839c]

Nobisso, Josephine.
In English, of Course. 2002.
Josephine tries to tell her new American class about her life in Naples, Italy, but her teacher misunderstands what she is saying and thinks she grew up on a farm.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. SE. N6641i]

Recorvits, Helen.
My Name is Yoon. 2003.
Yoon’s name means “shining wisdom” in Korean, but in an American school, she wants to try out English names, including ‘Cat,’ ‘‘Bird,’ and ‘Cupcake.’ Will Yoon find a way to be herself in a new place?
[Center for Children’s Books and SSHEL S-Collection SE. R2453m]

Intermediate to Advanced Readers

Applegate, Katherine.
Home of the Brave. 2008.
Kek, a young refugee from Sudan, finds himself alone in foreign, snowy Minnesota. There he begins school, where he struggles to fit in in his ESL class. Along the way he befriends a cow, learns to navigate the grocery store, and discovers that he can find family in any country.
[Center for Children’s Books and SSHEL S-Collection S. Ap52h]

Castellanos, Jane
Tomasito and the Golden Llamas. 1968.
In order to get a better education, a young Peruvian boy leaves his homeland to live in California with his sister and brother-in-law, but finds the adjustment to school and a new way of life extremely difficult.
[SSHEL Oak Street; Choose pick up: SSHEL]

Himelblau, Linda.
The Trouble Begins. 2005.
Vietnamese Du Nguyen has lived in the Philippines with his grandmother his whole life. Now it’s time to join the rest of his family in California…and the trouble begins. How will Du survive in an American school where the other kids call him “Doo-Doo Head?” Can Du find his inner strength?
[SSHEL S-Collection S. H571t]

Lombard, Jenny.
Drita, My Homegirl. 2006.
When ten-year-old Drita and her family, refugees from Kosovo, move to New York, Drita is teased about not speaking English well, but after a popular student named Maxie is forced to learn about Kosovo as a punishment for teasing Drita, the two girls soon bond.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. L838d]

Tolliver, Ruby C.
Sarita, Be Brave. 1999.
When political unrest in Honduras forces twelve-year-old Sara to flee with her family and make the dangerous journey north to Texas, she faces the challenges of starting a new school and a new life.
[SSHEL Oak Street [Choose pick-up: SSHEL] S. T579s]