Please welcome my guest author today, Emilie Boon who lives in my town! She has a new book out …
Ella & Monkey at Sea by Emilie Boon
Ella and Monkey must navigate their stormy emotions when they leave behind their beloved grandma and home in Holland, setting sail with Mama for their new home in America and a joyful reunion with Papa. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
She has created a book list of her favorite ten books on immigrating to America! We are giving away three copies of Ella & Monkey at Sea. Please use the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.
I’m excited to celebrate the release of my book Ella & Monkey at Sea that I wrote and illustrated based on my own childhood. It’s the story of just one little immigrant girl but millions of immigrants from all over the world came to America before and after her. I’ve picked 10 books that explore different immigrant experiences however there are many more. My main focus is on the actual journeys of immigrants coming to America. But I’ve also added a few bonus books about the experience of children and their families once they arrive. What is your family’s history? Where did they come from? I hope these books will inspire you to learn more. We are a nation of immigrants!
Many thanks to the folks at Candlewick Press for donating 3 copies of Ella & Monkey at Sea for the giveaway, and much gratitude to Mia for graciously hosting me here!
My favorite 10 books on immigrating to America
1. Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris
A fascinating look at the history of the Statue of Liberty and what she symbolizes. By examining just one trait of this iconic statue we are left with a powerful, poignant, and even patriotic reminder. A beautiful book! [nonfiction picture book, ages 6 and up]
2. Coming to America: The Story of Immigration by Betsy Maestro, illustrated by Susannah Ryan
This book is an accessible overview of the history of immigration to the United States through the 1990s. There are many cultures and ethnicities represented in child-friendly illustrations. It’s a nice book to introduce the topic of immigration to very young readers. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain by Russell Freedman
Most Americans have heard of Ellis Island, but have you heard of a place called Angel Island in San Francisco Bay? For 30 years it was one of the busiest immigration centers on the West Coast and generations of Asian immigrants came through there. This is a comprehensive, yet accessible book full of photos, artwork, and primary sources, ending with an excellent bibliography. [nonfiction chapter book, ages 10 and up]
4. The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
A great-grandfather reminisces with his great-granddaughter, sharing with her a collection of matchboxes that served as his diary as a young boy. Growing up in Italy he and his family were illiterate. His collection of matchboxes with their content of tiny simple objects tells the story of his life in Italy, the journey to America, and his life in his new home country. This is a beautiful book and immigration story. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
5. Somos Como Los Nubes/We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano
This poignant and timely book gives us glimpses into what drives the thousands of children leaving Central America and arriving at the southern border of the US. Why are they leaving? What are there fears, hopes, and dreams? These bilingual poems are written from a child’s perspectives and illustrated with evocative paintings. [bilingual Spanish/English picture book, ages 7 and up]
6. Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
This story is about the author’s grandfather leaving his home in Japan and making a new home in America, only to find that he misses the home of his youth. The love of two worlds is passed down to the author. This poignant book about feeling torn between two cultures speaks straight to the heart. This is a beautifully illustrated Caldecott winner. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
7. When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Thirteen-year-old Jessie is chosen by the rabbi from her small village in Eastern Europe to go to America. Despite the heartbreak of saying goodbye to her beloved grandmother, Jessie sets sail with courage and hope to start a new life. This compassionately told story together with the gorgeous glowing watercolor and gouache illustrations is a memorable immigration story. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
8. My Diary from Here to There by Amada Irma Perez, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
A tenderly told story about the author’s own immigration experience, written in the form of a diary. Although this journey is from Mexico to the US, the author expertly captures the universal emotions and trauma of leaving home and moving to a new place. The bold and bright illustrations teem with life. [bilingual Spanish/English nonfiction picture book, ages 6 and up]
9. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
This book is one of my all-time favorites! It’s a compelling, wordless graphic novel for the older reader. Shaun Tan’s beautiful and haunting work set in fictional worlds perfectly captures the immigrant experience of leaving loved ones and arriving in strange lands with different languages and customs. A masterpiece! [graphic novel, ages 12 and up]
10. Teacup by Rebecca Young, illustrated by Matt Ottley
A lyrical text tells an allegorical tale that is perfectly complemented by the beautiful paintings. A story of a young boy who searches for a new homeland suggests a connection with immigrant stories that will resonate with anyone who has ever left home in search of a better place. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Bonus books about the newly arrived immigrant experience
11. All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino
A true story, affectionately told, about one family’s history emigrating from Italy to America many years ago. It’s the classic story of the immigrant dream. “Work hard, but remember to enjoy life and never forget your family,” is the message that is passed down from generation to generation. Charming and warm illustrations are rendered in gouache. [nonfiction picture book, ages 5 and up]
12. Here I am by Patti Kim, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
A wordless picture book from the perspective of a young boy recently arrived to the United States. With no words, the feelings of frustration that the boy feels at not being able to understand or read English are expertly conveyed in the expressive illustrations. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
13. I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien
This book is written from the perspective of three children at school who are new to America. Maria is from Guatemala, Jin is from Korea, and Fatimah is from Somalia. The author expresses the children’s challenges and triumphs with compassion and an economy of words. The pictures perfectly complement the text showing many different ethnicities. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
14. Islandborn by Junot Diaz*, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
I read the Spanish version of this book, which added to the fun! Everyone in Lola’s class comes from somewhere else, but Lola doesn’t remember the island she left when she was a baby. This story is about Lola’s quest and discovery, as she speaks to relatives and others from her community. Beautiful prose and fabulous colorful illustrations create a wonderful book on identity and belonging. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
15. Dear Juno by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
Juno lives in America and receives letters from his grandmother in Korea that he can’t read but learns to decipher. My grandmother always played an important role in my life despite the fact that we lived on different continents. I love this sweet, gentle story about a grandchild and grandparent bridging the language gap and staying close while living far apart. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
One last Bonus…
16. The Journey by Francesca Sanna
This book is not specifically about immigrating to the US, but if you are looking for a book to help explain the plight of refugees to young children this could be a good choice. Although the story is based on many refugees’ journeys, the story and pictures captivatingly convey the emotions involved when a family escapes a homeland besieged by war for an unknown new home. Beautiful, stylized illustrations create a powerful book. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
* This note is from Mia Wenjen (a.k.a. PragmaticMom). It is my policy to link any accused authors or illustrators who appear in my blog to my blog post on sexual misconduct in children’s book publishing. Please note that Junot Diaz has been accused of sexual misconduct.
3 Book Giveaway of Ella & Monkey at Sea to 3 Winners!
We are giving away three copies of Ella & Monkey at Sea. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. We can only mail to U.S. addresses.
Emilie Boon is the illustrator or author-illustrator of more than twenty books for young children. She was born in the Netherlands and spent her childhood in California and Mexico. Emilie later went back to the Netherlands to study graphic design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. She has always loved to draw, especially with crayons, which she still uses regularly. Emilie lives in the Boston area. To learn more about Emilie’s work please visit her website, tour her studio ), or visit her on Facebook and Instagram.
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p.s. Related posts:
Modern Immigration & The Refugee Experience Books for Kids
10 True Kidlit Immigration Stories by Sandra Neil Wallace
FREE Classroom Empathy Kit: Immigration & Refugees
New MCBD Classroom Kit: Activists & Activism!
10 Middle Grade Books about Immigrant Families
Chapter Books to Support 4th Grade or 5th Grade Immigration Unit
Meet Asian Pacific American Hero Haing Ngor
Undocumented Immigrants in Children’s Literature
Immigrant Story: In The Year of the Boar
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
47 thoughts on “Children’s Books on Immigrating to America”
Of the books discussed, I think “Ella & Monkey at Sea” has an especially charming cover!
Thank you, John! That means a lot to me!
Thanks for entering John!
Love this list and can’t wait to share some with my kids.
Thank you. I hope your kids enjoy the books!
Thanks so much!
I’ve read & reviewed many of these immigration books, but so happy to see a few new ones to add to my “to read” list. Congratulations on Ella & Monkey at Sea! I look forward to reading it.
Thank you, Patricia! I’m glad there are a few new books on the list for you to read and enjoy!
Hope you enjoy it Patricia!
My “old” favorite When Jessie Came Across the Sea is on your list, and the book I fell in love with last year, I’m New Here . Can’t wait to add Ella & Monkey at Sea to my shelf as well. Congratulations!
Thank you, Cathy! I hope that you discover other new books on this list that will become new favorites!
Thanks for entering Cathy!
we enjoyed reading my grandfather’s journey. we really liked tree of cranes as well – we own this one and read it again and again.
Yes, Allen Say’s work is beautiful. I hope you will discover some other new books here to share with your children and that you will enjoy reading together!
I really like My Grandfather’s Journey too! Thanks for entering!
Great list. Thank you so much for it i will let my kids grab those books…..
Thank you, Angel. I hope you enjoy the books with your kids!
Thanks for entering Angel!
Hooray for Ella & Monkey at Sea!! Congrats to you, Emilie!! Many of my favorites are here too, including Her Right Foot & The Arrival!! With such a backlash against immigrants, it’s more crucial now than ever to have these affirming and important stories!!
Thank you, Maria. I only recently discovered Her Right Foot, which I love! The Arrival has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I’m happy to see that the list of good books on immigration is growing for exactly the reason you mentioned!
Mia, Would love to see an Instagram category here for those of us not on twitter, if it’s not too much trouble 🙂
Rafflecopter doesn’t offer an Instagram category yet. 🙁
Great list of books! Thanks! And congratulations!
Thank you, Angie! I hope you’ll discover new books from the list and that you enjoy them!
I don’t have a favorite children’s book about immigration but I definitely think we need more of them, especially during this time when immigration issues are in the news so often and we need to talk about them in ways that are both compassionate and everyday–almost all of our families are immigrant families, after all.
I totally agree with you, Beth! There’s absolutely room for many more thoughtful books on this timely subject of immigration.
I agree! There seems to be a spate of European immigration picture books recently.
I’ve never read a picture book on immigration so I have lots to read now thanks to your list. My mom immigrated here and may share many of these memories.
Thanks for your comment, Danielle. It would be wonderful if some of these books will encourage you to ask your mother to share more of her own story and memories with you!
I have another immigration list as well here: Modern Immigration and the Refugee Experience https://www.pragmaticmom.com/2017/05/immigration-books-kids/
I just read and reviewed The Girl and the Dress and its my nw favorite.
I’m looking forward to reading that book! Thanks for suggesting it, Jen!
It’s a lovely picture book connecting European immigration via ship too. Very similar themes to Ella and Monkey. The illustrations of The Girl and the Dress are stunning!
I enjoyed reading the Immigration book My Shoes and I with my grandson but on this list I would love to read Ella & Monkey at Sea.
Thank you, Jacquelyn. I hope you and your grandson enjoy ELLA & MONKEY AT SEA and also discover some other new books on immigration!
Thanks for entering Jacquelyn!
I would love to read this book with my kiddo. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is another great book.
That is one of my favorite books! Thanks for your great book rec!
Coming to America: The Story of Immigration seems like a great read for my daughter.
Thanks for your great book recommendation!!
My favorite book about this topic is actually The Arrival. I love the illustrations and how “quiet” the journey seems. I’m a daughter of two immigrants and most of my students are as well or they’re immigrants themselves and this is a HUGE topic we love reading about. *crosses fingers* that I can get these books for my classroom library.
I love Shaun Tan’s books. They have a mysteriousness to them that makes them seem like they are for an older age but The Arrival can work for a wide age range. Thanks for entering!
I like the book coming to America the best
That a great book!
Leela Loo is having trouble posting her comment, so I am posting it for her. I’m so sorry my comments plugin is acting up.
All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian.