Picture Books about BELONGING

The titles listed below are connected by a theme of identity and BELONGING. Compassion and empathy filter throughout each of these picture books, whether the narrative is about war, the refugee experience or finding a place in a community. One (or more) of these titles) should be strong contenders for Caldecott award.


MARWAN’S JOURNEY by Patricai de Arias; illus. Laura Borras (refugee experience)

Marwan is bound for a place he doesn’t know and he relies on the memories of his faraway homeland to give him courage and hold on to dreams of a peaceful place to live.

 “Marwan, keep going, walk, and walk, and walk.

  And I keep walking.”

LITTLE MAN LITTLE MAN: A story of Childhood by James Baldwin: illus. Yoran Cazac

Re-issue of 1976 publication, celebrating the joys and challenges of black childhood through the adventures of four-year-old boy observing people and strutting through the rhythms life in Harlem. On the back cover LeVar Burton writes, ‘neither the native idioms of speech nor the world as seen through TJ’s eyes are meant by Baldwin to engender a sense of comfort in the reader.’ in this ‘child’s story for adults.’

     “I want you to be proud of your people,” TJ’s Daddy always say.

THE DAY THE WAR CAME by Nicola Davies: illus. Rebecca Cobb (refugee experience)

Inspired by true events set in the destruction of war, this poem first published in the Guardian newspaper website alongside an image of an empty chair inspired hundreds and hundreds of images of empty chairs to be posted in solidarity for the 3000 unaccompanied  child refugees where were refused sanctuary in the UK in 2016. evokes the experience of a young refugee.

“Out of every hut a child came,/ and we walked together/ on a road lined with chairs,

Pushing /back the war w/ith every step.”

MUSTAFA by Marie-Louise Gay (refugee experience)

Mustafa is awakened by dreams of the war-torn country he used to live in. But now, the young boy is settling in to new surroundings and coming to find comfort in a new place.

“Mama,” asks Mustafa, “am I invisible?”

“If you were invisible, I couldn’t hug you, could I?” answered his mama.

IMAGINE by Juan Felipe Herrera; illus. Lauren Castillo

The author of this book, a poet,  artist, and  activist was the son of migrant farmworkers. This picture book illustrates Herrera’s poem ‘Imagine’ about a young boy’s search for achieving dreams and finding a place of belonging.

“If I grabbed a handful/ of words/ I had never heard and/ sprinkled them over a paragraph/ so I

could write/ a magnificent story, / imagine.”

SEA PRAYER by Khaled Hosseini; illus. Dan Williams (refugee experience)

Awaiting a journey in search of a new home, a Syrian father tells stories to his son, remembering a happy life that preceded a time when skies spit bombs.

“I have heard it said that we are the uninvited. We are the unwelcome.”

WHERE WILL I LIVE? Rosemary McCarney (refugee experience)

Many children, because of war and conflict are forced to leave their homes because they are no longer safe?  Will they find someone somewhere who will welcome them into a new home? Simple text, direct questions, powerful photographs make Where Will I Live? a thoughtful read.

Will I be able to sleep in the same place every night?”

PEACEFUL FIGHTS FOR EQUAL RIGHTS by Rob Sanders; illus. Jared Andrew Schorr

Inspiring words of activism are spread out in alphabetical order.

“March. Mediate.

Meditate. Motivate.”

HEY, WALL: A story of art and community by Susan Verde; illus. John Parra

A  bleak wall is transformed by friends and neighbours into a place of story and  color and celebration and joy.

“You are stone but you don’t have to be hard.

THE DAY YOU BEGIN by Jacqueline Woodson; illus. Rafael Lopez

What’s it like to find yourself in a place where you feel different because of the way you look, the way you dress, the way you eat, play, speak? What is it like to share your stories  that may be different or similar than the one’s others have?

“There will be times when you walk into a room

and no one there is quite like you.”


DREAMERS by Yuyi Morales (refugee experience)

Dreams can come true about a new life, in a new country, speaking a new language and learning to read.

“Books became our language.

Books became our home.

Books became our lives.”