‘A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster’.
The concept of refugees goes back centuries. It is founded on the practice of someone seeking safety in a neutral, safe place. Centuries ago this would have been a church or sacred site. In England this was introduced by King Ethelbert of Kent in 600 AD. Later, it was when countries would allow for those feeling persecution for religious or political beliefs refuge within their borders. There have been waves of refugees over time, which have included the Huguenots fleeing 17th and 18th century France, Russian Jews fleeing the Pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th century, Ugandan Asians escaping the clutches of Idi Amin in the 1970s up to the recent crisis in Europe with the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa displacing huge numbers.
To celebrate ‘World Refugee Day’ Blackhen Education has singled out 5 popular children’s books on this subject.
Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
Alem is a refugee from Ethiopia in 1990s Britain. His family is brutally divided by the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea at the time (mum and dad are from each of the countries and no-where is safe). He is brought to the UK, where he discovers one morning he is suddenly alone in a strange new country. He must quickly make friends, fight being sent back to a war-torn country, as well as find out why his dad has mysteriously disappeared.
Once by Morris Gleitzman
A young Jewish boy, Felix, lives in an orphanage in Poland during WW2. He decides one day, after the Nazi soldiers arrive and start burning books, that he should find his bookseller parents to make sure that they are alright. So begins an exciting journey across Nazi occupied Poland, where Felix learns the importance of friends and the dangers of the new world he finds himself in.
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onalji Q. Rauf
‘Who is the mysterious boy at the back of the class?’
‘And why is he so quiet?’
Soon Ahmet begins to make new friends and they start to find out about his home Syria, a country that has been on TV recently. Friendship, prejudice and finding your way in a new place are all themes that come across in this Prize-winning story.
The Bread Winner by Deborah Ellis
Taliban controlled Afghanistan is the setting for this story of how a young girl becomes the breadwinner of her family when her father is wrongly arrested. It shows, in an exciting and at times scary way, how a girl can challenge the strict rules and stereotypes in a male dominated society, one where girls should remain out of sight. If they know what’s best for them!
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Buddhism, the Himalayas, the Chinese Police and friendship all feature in this absorbing tale. Two Tibetan children, Tash and Sam, journey across the Himalayas, desperate to reach India and their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama. For it is only he, they believe, that can save their parents from the Chinese Police who have taken them prisoner. Both the idea of freedom and the beautiful Himalayas are central themes in this book by Jess Butterworth.
Submit a review of one of these books once you’ve read it?
Remember to mention its name, a little bit about the story, why you liked it (if you did) and what score you’d give it out of 5.
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