The best books on asylum-seeking and displaced children and war

Nicki Cornwell Author Of Christophe's Story
By Nicki Cornwell

Who am I?

Two books that I read as a young child were very important to me. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss made me think about riches, poverty, and the power that rich people have to make stupid rules; and poor people have no choice but to obey them. The Japanese Twins from Lucy Fitch Perkins' series on twins from different cultures gave me a life-long interest in cultural differences. Not only did they think differently, depending on their culture, they also had different skin colours. Later I learned about racism when I worked with unhappy displaced children and interpreted for asylum-seekers. I write from a child's perspective, making books accessible to all ages.

I wrote...

Christophe's Story

By Nicki Cornwell,

Book cover of Christophe's Story

What is my book about?

Christophe and his family are asylum-seekers in the UK. Christophe has a story inside him - and this story wants to be told. But with a new country, a new school, and a new language to cope with, Christophe can't find the right words. He wants to tell the whole school why he had to leave Rwanda, why he has a scar made by a bullet from a soldier's gun, and what happened to his baby brother, but has he got the courage to be a storyteller? Christophe must find a way to break through all these barriers so he can share his story with everyone.

The books I picked & why

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The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

By Dr. Seuss,

Book cover of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

Why this book?

I was captivated by this picture book. The first two illustrations I have never forgotten: Bartholomew living at the bottom of a hill looks up at King Derwin's Castle at the top of the hill -- a mighty view, and it makes Bartholomew feel mighty small. King Derwin in his castle looks down at Bartholomew sees the houses down below: a mighty view, that makes King Derwin feel mighty important. Bartholomew is told to obey a stupid rule made by the King which leads to surprising consequences.

I learned from this story about the difference between riches and poverty, and the power that riches bring. Later I realised that King Derwin was a Dictator.

La Frontera: El Viaje Con Papa / My Journey with Papa

By Deborah Mills,

Book cover of La Frontera: El Viaje Con Papa / My Journey with Papa

Why this book?

I learned from this story why families make the difficult decision to split up and send a father and a child on a dangerous journey for a better life. This family lives in Mexico, facing hunger and destitution. The father and his son became migrants. They walked to America, knowing that they could be split up or one of them die.

In this book, I learned about the Mexican-American War, and the atrocious US policy of splitting migrant children from their parents.

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of the Sudan

By Mary Williams, R. Gregory Christie (illustrator),

Book cover of Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of the Sudan

Why this book?

30,000 children some of whom were as young as six were orphaned and displaced from their homes when their villages were attacked in the Civil War. They met and banded together to trek across Sudan to Ethiopia and Kenya, looking for a new home. This was a journey of almost 1,000 miles. Thousands died on the way, but over 3,000 survived and many were resettled in America. I learned what can happen to children when their village is attacked and their parents killed. It's a fascinating story of perseverance and the importance of hope.

Catherine's War

By Julia Billet, Claire Fauvel (illustrator), Ivanka Hahnenberger (translator)

Book cover of Catherine's War

Why this book?

I chose this story to illustrate the plight of Jewish people during the Nazi occupation in France. Catherine's War is based on the true story of a Jewish girl named Rachel Cohen who had to leave her boarding school near Paris and find somewhere safe to live. Rachel has to change her name to Catherine Colin and hide her Jewish identity in order to survive. She was sustained by her beautiful camera, which gave her a record of all that she had to through.

The Secret Garden

By Claire Freedman, Shaw Davidson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Secret Garden

Why this book?

I've always loved this story, written more than 100 years ago, Mary Lennox is an unwanted ten-year-old growing up in India who is looked after by native servants. As a result, she becomes spoilt, demanding, and self-centered. When a cholera epidemic kills her parents, Mary is discovered all alone in her house and sent to Yorkshire to live with a reclusive uncle called Archibald Craven.

In this story, there are cultural differences, and an unhappy and unlovable child. How can Mary change and grow, and emerge from this situation?

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in children in the Holocaust, Sudan, and immigrants?

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Children In The Holocaust Explore 10 books about children in the Holocaust
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