Middle Grade Refugee Historical Fiction

Although refugee stories exist all across the globe, in all time periods, this group of books focuses on the tragedies in the Middle East and Africa. Almost always it is the result of a corrupt government or hatred between different ethnic or religious groups. Some of these books are newly published and some of them are so well-written, they are timeless.

Africa

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (2010)

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This story is told from two alternating points of view. One is that of Salva Dut whose Sudanese village is attacked during the Civil War in 1985. Everyone is either killed or flees and makes a long perilous journey to a refugee camp. The other viewpoint is told by Nya, who in 2008 walks 8 miles every day to get water. The stories merge when an older Salva helps build a well to bring water to Nya’s village.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney (2014)

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Amira lives a happy life in Darfur with her parents and sister until her village is destroyed and her father is killed in a Janjaweed militia raid. Though the risks are high, she travels to a refugee camp where conditions are overcrowded and substandard. Her most prized possession is a red pencil and tablet given to her by a refugee worker. Written in verse format.

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (2007)

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Kek is a Sudanese refugee escaping war in his country to make a new life in America. He is resettled with relatives in Minnesota. Everything is foreign and confusing for Kek. He misses his home, but must learn to adapt to this strange new world. Written in verse format.

Middle East

Refugee by Alan Gratz (2017)

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This is a story about three different families fleeing tragedy in their countries. A Jewish family flees Nazi Germany on a ship bound for Cuba in WW2. A Cuban family flees civil unrest in a small boat bound for Florida in 1994. A Syrian family flees the bombings in a war-torn Aleppo to find sanctuary in Europe. The stories are connected by similar circumstances to show that history repeats itself.

Without Refuge by Jane Mitchell (2018)

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Ghalib is a 13-year-old Syrian boy whose family decides to escape to the West after he narrowly misses being killed by a barrel bomb. The journey is long and dangerous. First they survive sniper fire in bombed out Aleppo. Then they get backlogged and separated at the Turkish border. They meet up again in a refugee camp, only to nearly drown as they cross the Mediterranean Sea into Greece.

Shooting Kabul by K. H. Senzai (2009)

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Following the Afghan war with the Soviet Union, the Taliban comes to power. The Taliban has taken away basic human rights and Fadi’s family feels it’s time to leave. One night they sneak away to join others who are leaving illegally. In the chaos, Fadi loses his sister Miriam, but the truck refuses to stop. Fadi’s family receives asylum in the USA. They start a new life, but never give up their search for little Miriam.

Escape from Aleppo by K. H. Senzai (2018)

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Nadia leads a happy, typical 12-year-old life in Syria until the bombings begin. When her family decides to flee, their apartment is bombed and Nadia gets knocked unconscious. Her family must leave without her, hoping that if she is still alive, they will meet up again. Nadia makes her way through the rubble and meets an elderly man who helps her navigate the unrecognizable city, ultimately intending to get to the Turkish border.

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (2018)

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Few people know about the partitioning of India that occurred in 1947, resulting in the country of Pakistan. This is the story of Nisha who is torn in the conflict between the Muslims and Hindus in India. Her mother is Muslim. Her father is Hindu. The story unfolds in diary format that Nisha writes to her deceased mother. Her journal describes the difficult and dangerous journey her family experiences as they flee their home in the new Muslim Pakistan with their Hindu father.

Nowhere Boy by Katharine Marsh (2018)

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Ahmed is a Syrian refugee, escaping his war torn city. While crossing the Mediterranean Sea in an overloaded boat, he loses his father. He makes it to Brussels, Belgium, but decides to run rather than go to a refugee center. He finds an unlocked home with a perfect hideout in the cellar. The home is occupied by a family of American expats. Their son, Max finds Ahmed in the cellar, and helps him get into school with forged documents.

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