Immigration Annotated Bibliography
Dr. Ava L. McCall
● Children’s Books
● Children’s Periodicals
● Curriculum Materials
● Web Sites
● Adult Resources
Apps, J. (2008). Casper Jaggi: Master Swiss cheese maker. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
Upper Elementary/Middle School. The text portrays Casper Jaggi, who left Switzerland at the age of 20 to join his brothers in New Glarus, Wisconsin. In his homeland, Caspar had learned the art of making Swiss cheese which he continued after immigrating to Wisconsin. He first worked in others’ cheese factories around New Glarus, then he served as a cheese maker for a cooperative factory in Green County. There Caspar and his wife lived in an apartment above the factory until 1941 when Caspar bought his own cheese factory in Brodhead, Wisconsin. By the 1950s, it became the largest Swiss cheese factory in Wisconsin. The text describes the complex processes, the long work days, as well as the equipment and tools used in making Swiss and cheddar cheese. Overall, readers gain an appreciation for the contributions of immigrants like Caspar Jaggi to Wisconsin’s reputation as a cheese-making state.
Argueta, J. (2001). A movie in my pillow = Una película en mi almohada. New York: Children’s Book Press.
A renowned Salvadoran poet recalls his childhood experiences, dreams, and memories of life in El Salvador and San Francisco.
Bartoletti, S. C. (2001). Black potatoes. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Middle/High School. Through the voices of the Irish people, this book tells the history of the Great Irish Famine of the late 1840s. Eyewitness accounts and memories combine with devastating facts: one million died from starvation and disease; two million emigrated; the famine could have been avoided; and the bitter resentment against the English, who owned most of Ireland, that followed. The author tells of evictions, of the Irish starving while food is exported to England, and of deaths in the coffin ships that took the desperate to North America. The text is broken up with many black-and-white drawings from newspapers of the time, and a long final essay includes information about books, primary sources, library collections, and Web sites for more information.
Bartone, E. (1996). American too. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.
Elementary. Rosina, an Italian immigrant, wants to be a modern American girl. Questioning the characteristics and traditions of her family, she changes her name to Rosie, refuses to eat the eggplant sandwich herm mother packs in her lunch, and reacts with anger instead of pride when told she will be the queen of the San Gennaro feast. The Statue of Liberty provides inspiration and when the festival procession begins, Rosina appears, not in the white taffeta dress made by her mother, but dressed as Lady Liberty. Her costume is a success and she is glad the feast is a part of her new life in America. The story may help young people explore how to blend their unique ethnic background with their American identity.
Bial, R. (2009). Ellis Island: Coming to the land of liberty. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.
Upper elementary. The text is illustrated by historical photographs and the author’s recent photographs of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and its exhibits. The author reviews the history of Ellis Island, from its opening in 1892, to the fire in 1897 which destroyed the wooden buildings, to its busiest time in 1907 when more than a million people came through this port of entry, to its closure in 1954. Although there were more than 70 immigration stations along the U.S. shores between 1892 and 1924, half of the nation’s immigrants came through Ellis Island. The author describes some of the hardships of most immigrants who traveled in steerage as well as their hopes for a better life in the U.S. When low-income immigrants came through the main building, they were examined and questioned to see if they had any medical problems, had the economic means to support themselves, and had appropriate political views and no criminal history. However, about two percent (approximately 240,000 individuals) were deported and returned to Europe, and about 3,000 immigrants died in the hospital buildings on Ellis Island. The author also summarizes anti-immigration sentiment leading to efforts to limit or stop immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and China. The author includes a list of adult and children’s books for further reading about Ellis Island and immigration.
Bunting, E. (2000). Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island story. BridgeWater Books.
Elementary. This is the fictional story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to enter the new facilities at Ellis Island on January 1st, 1892, her fifteenth birthday. Annie and her brothers are from Cork, Ireland, and are traveling to join their parents who have been in America for three years, saving money to bring their children over. After a difficult goodbye to their friends and family, Annie and her brothers travel in third class with a cabin to themselves. They make friends with a Russian man who takes care of them during the difficult journey. Upon arriving in America, there is a huge celebration for the immigrants who will be the first to enter the new Ellis Island. The authors add real pictures and notes which add to the authenticity, including the passenger list that includes the names of Annie and her brothers.
Cech, J. (1991). My grandmother’s journey. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Elementary and up. Basing his narrative on the experiences of his wife's mother, who was born in Russia in 1907 and escaped westward in a harrowing journey during WW II, the author tells a story as it might be told to a grandchild at bedtime. When Grandmother was a girl, a grateful gypsy cured her of terrible headaches; when she was newly married, a less friendly gypsy told her a time would come when she would ``pray to endure one more hour...when your every footstep will be pain.'' Indeed, the Revolution brings famine and death, and during the war, carrying a baby whose innocence helps win them many kindnesses, she and her husband make their way to America. The story is well illustrated, with pictures that reflect traditional Russian art.
Danticat, E. (2002). Behind the mountains. New York: Scholastic.
Upper elementary/middle school level. The realistic fiction is part of the First Person Series about children and youth who immigrate to the United States. The text is based on the author’s experiences of her father and then her mother leaving Haiti to work in New York City to earn money to support the family. After eight years of separation, the author and her brother were able to join their parents and younger siblings in New York City, which required considerable adjustment. The text begins in 2000 and describes the main character Celiane, her older brother, and her mother’s lives in their two-room house in a rural, mountainous village of Beau Jour, Haiti while their father works in New York City. Celine’s father moved to New York City because he was unable to earn enough through farming in Haiti. Celiane’s father sends money to pay their living expenses, which provides their basic needs and educational expenses for Celiane to attend primary school and for her older brother to attend tailoring school. However, they miss Celiane’s father and look forward to his regular cassette recordings to remain in contact. Although Celiane’s family seems to live a simple, comfortable life in Haiti, Celiane and her mother are hurt by a pipe bomb which appears to be connected to the presidential election resulting in the election of Jean-Betrand Aristide. Their injuries precipitate Tante Rose, Papa’s sister, and Franck, Papa’s friend/employer in New York City, to arrange for Celiane, her brother and mother to leave Haiti and join their husband and father in New York City. The text describes several of the adjustments Celiane, her brother, and mother face in their new home, such as how to use the stove, stay warm in the cold and snow, travel to and from school, understand a new language and new school subjects, and make friends. Conflicts arise between Celiane’s father and brother over different goals they have for Celiane’s brother’s life. The text can be used to portray a first person perspective on life in Haiti and the difficulties of immigrating to the U.S.
Englehart, M. & Kurelek, W. (1985). They sought a new world. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra Books.
Elementary/Middle. Canadian artist William Kurelek was born to Ukrainian Immigrant parents who came to America on the promise of land and a better life. He tells his story and others’ through 28 paintings drawn from him earlier books and from his individual paintings in which he attempted to record the histories of different ethnic groups in North America. He also provides comments on his own experience throughout the text. Additional information about the massive Immigrant movement to North America is added, under headings such as “Why they left Europe,” “Getting to the new land,” “Finding work,” “The dream of owning land,” “Learning to be a child of the new world,” “The comfort of religion,” etc. The text mostly describes Immigrants who came to own and work land, and illustrates their courage, determination, and strong work ethic.
Freedman, R. (1980). Immigrant kids. New York: Puffin Books.
Elementary and up. Made up of vintage photographs and descriptive text, this book chronicles the life of immigrant children in New York City during the late 1800's and early 1900's. Divided into sections, the book covers immigrants coming to America on boats and going through Ellis Island, life at home, school, work, and play. The author discusses the need for children to work to help the family to survive, often doing so illegally. Life for the immigrant child was difficult at the turn of the century, and the pictures and text of this book give great insight into that life.
Freedman, R. (2013). Angel Island: Gateway to gold mountain. Boston: Clarion Books.
Upper elementary/ middle school level. The author describes the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco, which was open from 1910 until 1940, and primarily admitted immigrants from China and other parts of Asia to the United States. Over half a million people from more than 80 different countries were processed at Angel Island between 1910 and 1940. However, Angel Island often served as a detention center while new immigrants tried to prove their legal right to enter the country. Young Chinese men came to the United States to escape the poverty in their homeland and make money in the California gold fields and help to build the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1850s and 1860s. However, the Chinese immigrants faced significant prejudice and discrimination as exemplified by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The author describes the intensive health exams at the Angel Island detention center and the lengthy interrogations new immigrants had to pass to prove they were in good health and were either native-born U.S. citizens or the wives or children of U.S. citizens. Japanese immigrants were the second largest group to pass through Angel Island after the Chinese. They also came for economic reasons and faced discrimination in the United States, but young Japanese men could send for their "picture brides" or the Japanese women their relatives from Japan arranged for them to marry. The "picture brides" also entered the United States through Angel Island. Angel Island is now recognized as an historical landmark and is open to the public.
Griffith, G. (2013). When Christmas feels like home. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
Elementary. The realistic fiction text portrays Eduardo's adjustment to a new home, school, and children his age. While Eduardo played futbol and spoke Spanish, other children in his new school played football and spoke English. However, Eduardo taught his new friends how to dribble a futbol, speak Spanish words, and helped them with math while his new friends taught him English, how to catch a football, and helped him with reading. By Christmas, Eduardo felt at home in his new home.
Hest, A. (1997). When Jessie came across the sea. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Elementary. This narrative tells the story of 13-year-old Jessie and her journey from a poor village in Eastern Europe to New York City at the turn of the century. Jessie and her grandmother are very close, but when the village Rabbi chooses Jessie to use his ticket to America, they know it will be for the best. On the journey to America, Jessie meets Lou, a young shoemaker whose friendship helps Jessie survive the hardships and uncertainties of the ocean crossing. Her skill as a lacemaker, painstakingly learned from her grandmother, insures her success in the dressmaker's shop where she goes to work. Her romance with Lou is rekindled when they meet years later on a wintry day in Central Park. Before her wedding, Jessie is finally able to reunite with her grandmother whose ticket she has bought with the money it has taken her years to save. The illustrations show the European village, storms at sea, and the teeming streets of the Lower East Side with beautiful detail.
Hoffman, M. (2002). The color of home. New York: Phyllis Fogelman Books.
Elementary. Hassan's Muslim family was driven from their home in Somalia by the violent civil war. On his first day of school in America, everything looks gray and strange and he can't speak English. The children and teacher and nice and friendly, but he has a hard time making connections. Then in art class he paints a picture of the happy home he remembers before the soldiers came to his village. When he adds the nightmares that haunt him--the flames and bullets that killed his uncle and drove his family out--his teacher brings a Somali interpreter to translate for him, and he tells her his refugee story. The pictures in the story do a great job of expressing Hassan's sense of dislocation in a gray, unfamiliar place, until he is able to see the bright colors of his school and his new home.
Ieronimo, C. (2014). A thirst for home: A story of water across the world. New York: Walker Books for Young Readers.
Picture book, elementary level. The author of this realistic fiction describes a young girl, Alemitu, who lives with her mother in a small village in Ethiopia. They walk long distances to obtain water and wood, but struggle to have enough to eat. Alemitu’s mother apparently gives her daughter up for adoption so her daughter can have a better life. Alemitu is adopted by an American woman and taken to the United States to live with her new family, but she does not forget how important water and food are and uses them wisely. Alemitu’s name is changed to Eva, which Alemitu does not seem to mind. The book illustrates the significance of poverty as a motivation for children to be given up for adoption and then immigrate to a new home. However, it also illustrates that children hold onto their memories of their first homeland as they enjoy the advantages of their new homeland.
James, H. F. & Shin-Mui Loh, V. (2013). Paper son: Lee's journey to America. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.
Elementary. The realistic fiction text is based on the immigration experiences of some Chinese Americans who came to the United States as "paper sons" or "paper daughters" during the early 20th century. Chinese families bought papers from Chinese living in America stating they were related, but the relationship was only on paper. The papers, also considered the coaching book, gave information about the Chinese family living in America which the Chinese immigrant child had to memorize in order to pass the interrogation at Angel Island and prove they were members of the Chinese family living in America. After Lee's parents were killed by bandits in China, Lee's grandparents thought the only way for Lee to have a better life was to go to America. The text describes Lee's preparation for the journey, the journey by train and ship from China to the United States, and the arrival at Angel Island in California. Readers learn about Lee's medical exams, his temporary residence in dormitories, and his interrogation about information regarding his "family." Fortunately, Lee was able to "pass" the interrogation and allowed to enter the United States.
Knight, M. B. (1993). Who belongs here? An American story. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House, Publishers.
Elementary. Based on a true story, the book describes a young boy named Nary’s escape from Cambodia and immigration to America, with his grandmother and uncle. A brief background of the brutal communist regime led by Pol Pot that killed Nary’s mother and father is given. Nary’s grandmother carried him on her back as they escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand. After several years, the family was allowed to immigrate to America, where Nary enjoys many new freedoms and a grocery store full of food. The book uses Nary’s story to explore the intolerance and prejudice that has occurred in America for many groups of people. The author adds text on each page that provides background information on U.S. immigration or history; and questions to stimulate discussion. Notes in the back give additional material on individuals (Pol Pot, Dith Pran, Dolores Huerta) and concepts introduced throughout the text.
Kroll, S. (1995). Ellis Island: Doorway to freedom. New York: Holiday House
Elementary. This book chronicles the history of Ellis Island from landfill to monument. By 1890, as more and more people were coming to America in search of a better life, the U.S. government found it necessary to take control of Immigration, so they chose Ellis Island and spent two years building an immigration station. The book details the make-up of the station, the fire that destroyed it, and the new building built on Ellis Island. It describes the process that people went through as they were processed in America, depending on their class, including various medical exams and immigration inspector questioning. The book briefly discusses the impact of mass immigration in America, and the uses of Ellis Island after the First World War, when it was no longer used as an immigration station. Vivid illustrations include pen-and-ink drawings of the early period, images from familiar photographs, and color pictures in pencil and watercolor.
Lawlor, V. (1995). I was dreaming to come to America: Memories from the Ellis Island oral history project. New York: Puffin.
Picture book, elementary level. The text includes quotations from immigrants from different countries and their memories of coming to America and going through Ellis Island. Each interview is accompanied by an artistic illustration. The quotations are based on interviews conducted with people who had immigrated to the U.S. through Ellis Island as part of the Ellis Island Oral History Project. The quotations describe the trip in steerage, immigrants’ first impressions when seeing Ellis Island, what they brought with them, the role of interpreters, and either the experience of missing or being reunited with family. Short biographies provide background for each immigrant who is quoted in the text.
Lai, T. (2011). Inside out & back again. New York: HarperCollins Children's Books.
Upper elementary/middle school level. The author writes in verse about her and her family's experiences in leaving their home in Vietnam when Saigon falls during the Vietnam War, traveling by ship first to Guam and then to America where they are sponsored by a family to settle in Alabama. The poems provide a 10-year-old Vietnamese immigrant's perspective on the challenges of learning English, adjusting to "American" food and a new school, listening to the exaggerated pronunciations of the teacher and her patronizing praise for accomplishing simple tasks, and encountering racial divisions among the students as well as personal mistreatment and racist, stereotyped comments. The poems also describe the new friends she makes in school and the widowed, retired teacher who becomes her tutor and ally.
Leder, J. M. (1996). Journey between two worlds: A Russian Jewish family. Minneapolis: Lerner Publication Company.
Upper elementary/Middle. This story is centered around the Shurov family, and their
immigration to American from Russia despite many obstacles. The book gives a brief history of Russia, including the takeover of the Communists in 1917, the effect that the Communist reign had on the people, and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Shurov family had wanted to leave the Soviet Union for many years to gain back their freedom, but were not allowed. In Russia, they could not practice their Jewish faith for fear of persecution, and lacked other personal freedoms. The Soviet government allowed the family to leave in 1990, but made it difficult for them to do so even then. The story follows their life in Chicago, where the children are in school and the parents are learning English. The book is illustrated by photographs.
Lee, M. (2006). Landed. New York: Frances Foster Books.
Elementary. This story chronicles a young boy’s journey from China to America with his father. Sun’s father has traveled to America and started a business, and over time has taken Sun’s two older brothers over to San Francisco, where the business is located. At 12 years old, it is Sun’s turn to travel to America, but first he must face the difficult immigration process. Sun has a tutor that helps him memorize minute details about his family and home, such as how man windows are in his house. Sun arrives at Angel Island, and must go through an embarrassing physical example. Following that, he is detained by himself for a month as he awaits his questioning. Once Sun is called, he goes to answer questions three days in a row. After finally being admitted into the country, Sun is reunited with his father and brothers. This is based on the true story of the author’s father-in-law. The story is illustrated well with detailed pictures.
Levine, E. (1993). If your name was changed at Ellis Island. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Elementary. This book offers a comprehensive, well organized discussion of the immigration procedures followed at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1914. One- or two-page chapters offer concise answers to questions ("What did people bring with them?'; "What happened if you were detained?"; "How did people learn English?"), and cover a significant amount of information in an easy to understand format and language. Facts about the many rigorous routines and tests (medical, legal, literacy) that new arrivals endured are interwoven with true stories of the people that lived through them (the author’s own family received a name change at Ellis Island). The text also addresses stereotypes and prejudices that Americans had about immigrants, and the laws and government officials that supported or spoke out against them.
Levinson, R. (1985). Watch the stars come out. New York: E.P. Dutton
Early Elementary. The young narrator tells the story that her great grandmother used to tell of her and her brother traveling to America to meet their parents and older sister. There is no dialogue in the story, and only the details important to a child are included, so that it resembles an oral history. The experiences on the boat, at Ellis Island, and in New York City, as well as the emotions of the characters are more described by the accompanying illustrations. A great story for young readers first learning about the immigrant experience.
Lofthouse, L. (2007). Ziba came on a boat. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller.
Elementary. The text is realistic fiction and based on stories the author heard from refugees from Afghanistan. The main character, Ziba, travels on an old fishing boat with her mother from her home to a new land where they could have freedom. Ziba recalls pleasant memories of her homeland, including gathering cold water from the mountain stream, watching her mother weave rugs, and listening to her father’s stories. The simple text alludes to the disruption caused by war, which causes Ziba and her mother to escape for a better life.
Maestro, B. (1996). Coming to America: The story of immigration. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Elementary. This book provides an introductory history of immigration from thousands of years ago through the present, focusing on why different groups of people came to America and how they became a part of our national heritage. The author points out that when Christopher Columbus "discovered" the Americas, millions of people were already living on these continents. Different perspectives are incorporated into the text, including the harsh treatment Indians received and the forced immigration of Africans. The various laws that the U. S. has adopted to control immigration are explained. A brief history of Ellis Island is also included. The colorful, exuberant watercolors show men, women, and children of all nationalities. A table of dates provides a quick summary of immigration highlights.
Malone, M. (1996). Journey between two worlds: A Guatemalan family. Minneapolis: Lerner Publication Company.
Upper Elementary/Middle. This book follows the story of Karen Mendez and her family, and their journey from Guatemala to the United States. Karen was born in America, but her parents were brought up in Guatemala. Karen’s grandfather Don Jose started a store in the town that he lived in, and was successful. Soon after Karen’s parents were married and went to live with her grandparents, a rebel army questioned whether Don Jose was a government sympathizer and threatened to kill him. He managed to escape the country and his family followed him soon after. The Mendez family settled in Florida, and the story follows their life there. They are able to bring their Guatemalan culture alive in Florida with community gatherings, traditions, and foods. The book is illustrated with photographs.
Mateo, J. M. (2014). Migrant. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Elementary. The text is written in both English and Spanish, and the book is arranged as a codex with one, long, continuous illustration of the text gathered in an accordion fold. The book describes a farming family in Mexico who work for a landowner. When the family could not make enough money from farming, the father left to earn money somewhere else. When the Mother was unable to find work to earn money, she decided to leave Mexico with her son and daughter. The text describes their difficult journey from Mexico to Los Angeles on the top of a train. When the train stopped, they hid in a hole in the ground to avoid being caught by police. Once the Mother, son, and daughter arrived in Los Angeles, they find work, a place to live with many other people, and hope to find the Father.
Mayerson, E. W. (1990). The cat who escaped from steerage. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.
Upper Elementary. Nine year old Chanah and her family are emigrating from Poland to America in the year 1910. As they travel through Marseilles, Chanah finds a stray cat that needs a home. She sneaks it onto the boat, keeping it a secret from everyone except her deaf cousin Yaacov. The family is poor and can only afford steerage passage, but Chanah and Yaacov do a lot of exploring of the ship in their desperate search for the cat after it escapes. Chanah learns that a person’s class is determined by their place on the ship, and along with this comes discrimination and stereotyping. Upon entering Ellis Island, the family’s fear of Yaacov being denied entry into America because of his deafness is realized, and it is up to Chanah to prove to the officials that he should be allowed entry. The story is entertaining and provides a detailed glimpse into the lives of immigrant families traveling to America.
Meltzer, M. (2002). Bound for America: The story of the European immigrants. New York: Benchmark Books.
Middle/High School. This text first explores the history of immigration to America, beginning with the first people who walked the bridge between Siberia and Alaska. Migration in Europe is also discussed, as the author explains that more people moved within Europe than came over to America. He then explores the specific forces (economic and otherwise) in Ireland, Germany, Eastern Europe, Italy, and other places that motivated people to immigrate. The remaining chapters focus on the trials of endurance in crossing the ocean in steerage, going through the immigration process, beginning a new life in sweatshops and slums, and, ultimately, becoming American. At the same time he emphasizes how the experience of immigrants depended on each individual's skills and social background. A short chapter on immigrants since the end of the 1960s concludes the book. Well-chosen black-and-white photos and reproductions complement the text, which is followed by a lengthy bibliography and further reading suggestions.
Murphy, N. (1997). Journey between two worlds: A Hmong family. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.
Upper elementary and up. Xiong Pao Vang and his family have risked much to escape from Laos to come to America. The book gives a brief history of the Hmong people, and their struggle to maintain land and freedom. Hiong Pao’s mother and father fled from Laos during wartime, and lived in a refugee camp outside the country. After having a few children, they decide it is time to attempt to leave for America. The family endures a dangerous long journey to arrive first in Los Angeles, and from there they travel to Minneapolis, where there is a large Hmong population. The book discusses their adjustment to life in America, where they work to maintain sacred Hmong traditions and cling to their history and community, while also appreciating the freedoms the America affords them.
O'Brien, A. S. & Maine Humanities Council. (2012). A path of stars. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Elementary. The realistic fiction text illustrates the experiences of one Cambodian refugee family living in Maine in the United States. The narrator is Dara, a young Cambodian girl who lives with her parents, grandmother, and baby brother Kiri. The grandmother recounts her escape with her brother and daughter from the war in Cambodia to a refugee camp in Thailand to her settlement with her daughter in the U.S., her fond memories of Cambodia, and her desire to take her daughter's family to Cambodia to visit her brother, who returned to Cambodia after the war. The text clearly shows the grandmother's love for Cambodia, despite the war, and her love for her brother. When Dara's grandmother learns of her brother's death, she is devastated. Dara finds a way to comfort her grandmother, who holds fast to her dream to return to Cambodia.
O’Connor, K. (1996). Journey between two worlds: A Kurdish family. Minneapolis: Lerner Publication Company.
Upper elementary/middle. The story follows the Ahmet family as they are forced to flee their home of Kurdistan, in Northern Iraq when Iraq’s army attacks the city. They escape to a refugee camp that is guarded by Turkish guards who have no value for the lives of “Kurds.” The family is forced to stay in this jail-like camp for over a year, being poisoned by the food and water that they receive. One of the Ahmet children dies in the camp. They are rescued when their family in the United States was able to contact the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Turkey, who worked with the family to get the Ahmet’s released from the camp and moved to the United States. Their life in the United States is also described. The book also details some of the background of the conflict between the Kurdish people and Iraq, including the effects of the Persian Gulf War. Real photos provide great details to the story. Students should keep in mind that this book was written over ten years ago, and more has happened in this region since that time.
Park, F. & Park, G. (2002). Good-bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.
Early Elementary. "My heart beats in two places" begins this tale of an eight-year-old Korean girl who moves to America with her parents. The authors, who are inspired by events in the life of their older sister, trace young Jangmi's last day at home-on the eve of monsoon season, filled with reluctant goodbyes-and her first day in her new country. Jangmi is sad about leaving her home and best friend, and is anxious about what her life in America will be like. Jangmi's first reaction to her new home in Massachusetts is to see only the differences. However, she begins to feel more at home when her familiar possessions arrive and she meets her new neighbors, including a girl her own age. Illustrations provide many extra details.
Perez, A. I. (2002). My diary from here to there. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
Elementary. Amado overhears her parents one night talking about leaving their home in Juarez, Mexico, for America. She is nervous at the thought of leaving her house, friends, and country, and doesn’t understand why her brothers are so excited. Amada records their travels, their stay with relatives in Mexicali, eventual journey to Los Angeles, and the joyful reunion with their father, who had gone ahead to find work and secure green cards for the rest of the family. The story is told in both English and Spanish, and is beautifully illustrated with detailed, vibrant paintings.
Restrepo, B. (2011). Illegal. New York: HarperCollins Children's Books.
Upper elementary/middle school level. The text is written from the perspective of Nora, a young adolescent girl living on a small farm in Mexico with her mother and grandmother, while her father travels to the United States to find work. Nora describes the struggle they experience in selling enough fruit from their orchard to buy food, clothes, water and fertilize their trees, and pay taxes on their land. When Nora and her mother stop receiving letters and money from Nora's father, they decide to go to Texas to find him. The text describes their dangerous trip to Houston, Texas arranged by a coyote who took their money, but provided only a ride inside the back of a mango semi with no light, little water or ventilation, and no food. Once in Houston, Nora and her mother have to find a place to live, obtain "fake papers" which allow them to get jobs, and find jobs. Readers develop an understanding of life for illegal immigrants who don't speak English, understand American currency, must avoid authorities, but have a purpose for being in the United States. Fortunately, Nora and her mother find a couple who are willing to give them jobs and food, treat them kindly, and smuggle their grandmother into Houston. The text documents Nora's and her mother's suffering and setbacks, but also ends on a sense of hopefulness for a better future.
Rodriguez, L. J. (1998). America is her name. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press.
Elementary. America is a Mixteca Indian girl from Oaxaca, Mexico living in the Pilsen barrio in Chicago with her parents, two brothers, a sister, and an uncle. She misses her home in Mexico, and she and her family face hostility from her teacher who calls her "illegal," someone at the market calls her mother a "wetback," and her father loses his job. America is encouraged to write poetry and finds her voice again through writing. Every day at home America writes and is joined by her mother and siblings, although her father discourages writing as an inappropriate activity for a girl. America seems to find a sense of belonging in her new country through writing poetry.
Say, A. (1993). Grandfather’s journey. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Early Elementary. The author tells the story of his own Grandfather, who traveled to America from Japan and was fascinated by all of the different landscapes he saw in America. He traveled around the country and saw mountains, open fields, deserts, and large cities. He settled in California, and returned home to Japan to marry and bring his bride back with him. When he had his own child, he became homesick for his native country, and brought his family back to Japan. His own daughter married and had a child (Say) who, once he was old enough, traveled to see California, the land that his grandfather most loved and longed to return to before he died. He settles in America, but travels back and forth, as “the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other." Large illustrations act as a well-preserved family album.
Stewart, S. (2012). The quiet place. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books.
Elementary. The text is realistic fiction, set in April-August,1957, and is written in a series of letters from a young girl Isabel, who immigrated with her family to the U.S., to her Auntie Lupita who remained in Mexico. The family crossed the border into the U.S. without incident, the father apparently had no difficulty getting a job, and the mother began cooking for birthday parties, continuing the job she did in Mexico. Isabel describes the challenges in speaking English at school and making friends and the comfort she finds in her aunt's letters in Spanish. She seems to like her teacher who does not speak Spanish, but smiles at her and appears to love teaching. Isabel creates "a quiet place" out of large, empty boxes which helps her feel safe when she writes letters and reads books in English. By the end of the text, Isabel is improving in speaking English, but is worried about starting a new school year. Her brother is reading English newspapers to her father, her father is understanding English spoken at work, and her mother's birthday party business is growing. Her family invited everyone in the neighborhood to Isabel's birthday party where they had traditional Mexican foods, dances, and music.
Tonatiuh, D. (2013). Pancho rabbit and the coyote: A migrant's tale. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Elementary. The text is fictional, but is based on the author's knowledge of the challenges migrants from Mexico face when they travel north to the United States to earn money to support their families. The author's goal is for readers to understand the human emotions connected to people who immigrate to survive. The author chose animal characters to represent migrants, "coyotes" or people who smuggle immigrants from Mexico to the United States, and "snakes" who guard the tunnel, but allow people to pass for a price. The main character is Pancho Rabbit, whose father went to "El Norte" to work in the great carrot and lettuce fields. However, when he did not return home at the expected time, Pancho left home with his father's favorite foods to find him. On the way, he met Senor Coyote who promised to lead him to his father in exchange for some of the food Pancho was carrying. The coyote led him through dangerous means of travel, including hopping on top of a moving train, floating across a river, crawling through a tunnel, and crossing a hot desert. By the end, the coyote had eaten all of the food Pancho carried for his father and threatened to eat Pancho as well. Fortunately, Pancho was rescued by his father, and both returned home. However, because Papa Rabbit's money from working in "El Norte" was stolen, he and the family face the problem of how to earn money for the family. If it does not rain so crops will grow on the farm, then Papa Rabbit must travel north again to earn money, but next time, perhaps the entire family will go with him. The author's note elaborates on issues immigrants face and the issue of immigration for the United States.
Tran, T. (2003). Going home, coming home. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
Elementary. The realistic fiction text is written in English and Vietnamese and portrays a young Vietnamese American girl’s feelings about traveling to Vietnam, her parents’ homeland. Ami Chi, the main character, has never been to Vietnam, the country her parents left during the Vietnam War. They still consider it home, but it takes the trip to Vietnam for Ami Chi to also claim Vietnam as her home. Spending time with her grandmother, uncle, and a young Vietnamese girl her age helps Ami Chi to realize she is both Vietnamese and American and claim both countries as home.
Wells, R. (1999). Streets of gold. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.
Elementary and up. This picture-book biography is based upon the life of Masha (Mary) Antin, who emigrated from Russia in 1894. This account has been adapted from her memoir, The Promised Land. Her own words appear in the margins. Life is harsh and cruel for Jews under Czar Alexanders rule. Masha feels doubly cursed; since she is Jewish and a girl, going to school is out of the question. Even her brother is not allowed to attend school, once officials come to measure his nose and find it too long. Nevertheless, she has a desire to learn, so her father teaches her to read and write. Then, he leaves for America with a plan to send for his family when possible. Once they too arrive in Boston, they all live in a squalid tenement, but both Masha (now Mary) and her brother are finally allowed to attend school. Mary, at age 13, is placed in the first grade, but advanced to the fifth grade within six months. She even has an epic verse that she writes published in the city newspaper. The pictures and story provide great insight into the risk some Immigrants were forced to take, and the hard work that immigrating and adjusting to America required.
Williams, K. L. (2007). Four feet, two sandals. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Elementary. The text is realistic fiction and based on stories heard from refugees from a refugee camp in Peshawar, a city on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Afghani people have fled their homes to nearby countries to escape war and instability. The main characters, Lina and Feroza, each find one sandal among the used clothing brought to their refugee camp by relief workers. Neither has shoes to wear, but they decide to share the sandals. The text describes life in the camp for the young girls, such as washing clothes in a stream, waiting in line for water, caring for siblings, and listening to the school activities they could not participate in because there was room only for boys. They also shared their dreams of finding a new home, although only Lina and her family were allowed to go to America.
Williams, K. L. & Mohammed, K. (2009). My name is Sangoel. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Elementary. The text is realistic fiction and portrays Sangoel, his mother, and sister as refugees from the war in Sudan who settle in the United States. It shows the adjustments Sangoel and his family must make in learning to cross the streets safely, live in an apartment, operate a stove and telephone, and eat with forks. Sangoel is saddened when his teachers, coach, and other students at school cannot pronounce his name correctly, which motivates him to create a shirt reminding everyone of the proper pronunciation. Sangoel’s shirt prompts other children in his class to create drawings and symbols representing their own names. The author’s note provides background information on refugees, refugee camps, and why refugees like Sangoel left Sudan due to war and persecution. It also explains that despite the history of giving immigrants Americanized names, recent immigrants choose to keep their original names.
Wolf, B. (2003). Coming to America: A Muslim family’s story. New York: Lee & Low Books Inc.
Elementary and up. The story follows the Mahmoud family’s adjustment to life in America. Hassan Mahmoud works four long years to be able to bring the rest of his family from Egypt to America for a better future. Hassan works nights and regrets not seeing enough of his family. His wife, Soad, hampered by her lack of English, seems practically a shut-in, except when she goes to language class. On the other hand, the three Mahmoud children have adapted to their new country well, and are seen doing familiar tasks at home and at school, being with non-Muslim friends, enjoying both traditional foods at dinner and an American-style cake brought in to celebrate a birthday. The story is illustrated with detailed photos, including many of the family at prayer in a Manhattan mosque. The story is followed by a brief explanation of the Islamic faith.
Yang, B. (2004). Hannah is my name. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Early Elementary. A girl describes her family's journey from Taiwan to the United States in 1967, explaining that she must give up her Chinese name, Na-Li, and adjust to her unfamiliar American name, Hannah. Hannah relates how she and her parents try to adapt to a new way of life, observing the strange customs that they encounter and detailing the obstacles that they all must face. They immediately apply for green cards, a process that demands a long troublesome wait. Hannah’s father must work secretly, always worrying about being caught without a green card. Illustrations set the backdrop for Hannah’s life in San Francisco, and add much detail.
Chorlian, M. (Ed). (1995, May). Polish Americans. Cobblestone, 16.
Elementary. Articles discuss the history of Polish Americans, and the reasons why they came to America. Students will learn how Polish Americans helped fight for America’s independence, and other things they have done since they’ve been in America. Students will learn of the struggles Polish Americans faced and of the traditions that they still keep, as well as information on how to learn more.
Chorlian, M. (Ed). (2001, May). German Americans. Cobblestone, 22.
Elementary. This issue includes information on the history of German Americans, where they settled in the U.S., and the roles that they played once in America, including during wars with Germany. Students will learn about German American traditions, famous German Americans, and ways to learn more.
Chorlian, M. (Ed). (2006, February). Ellis Island: Gateway to America. Cobblestone, 27.
Elementary. Articles contain the history of Ellis Island, mass immigration to America, and the ways that New York handled the increasing number of immigrants coming to settle. Issue includes fictional stories as well as profiles of famous immigrants and activities for students to learn more.
Chorlian, M. (Ed). (2013, May/June). The new face of immigration. Cobblestone, 34.
Elementary. This issue focuses on different waves of immigrants, from the first Europeans and slaves who came in the 1500s and 1600s to the current wave who began entering the U.S. in 1965 and later. Articles include a timeline of immigration laws, how immigrants can become U. S. citizens, the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens, personal stories of immigrants, the favored status of Cuban immigrants for the past 50 years, different perspectives on immigration and the DREAM Act, and countries from which the majority of immigrants come today (Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines).
Corsey, M. (Ed). (1982, December). American immigrants: Part 1. Cobblestone, 3.
Elementary. Articles in this issue cover the history of immigration to America, including fictional and true stories of the dangers of crossing the Atlanta and coming into America. Stories cover Chinese immigrants, and their role in gold mining and the building of railroads, the Statue of Liberty and what it symbolizes, Hungarian Freedom Fighters who were defeated by the Russians and came to America, and a famous immigrant photographer who captured many moments from the period. Students will find information on how to learn more.
Corsey, M. (Ed). (1983, January). American immigrants: Part 2. Cobblestone, 4.
Elementary. This issue covers the history behind the immigration stations of Ellis and Angel Island. It also covers the reasons why Germans and Jewish people came to America, as well as a story of Japanese women, who emigrated as brides to men they had never met living in San Francisco. Fictional stories of immigration as well as more recent problems with immigration are covered. Students will find information on how to continue learning about these topics.
Yoder, C. (Ed). (1989, April). Hispanic Americans. Cobblestone, 10.
Elementary. This issues contain articles that discuss the history of Hispanic Americans, where they came from and why they came to America. Articles also touch on difficulties that Hispanic Americans have encountered, such as discrimination and exploitations of workers. Students will learn about Hispanic American leaders and traditions, and will find information for further study.
Yoder, C. (Ed). (1994, March). Irish Americans. Cobblestone, 15.
Elementary. Articles explore the reasons that immigrants came from Ireland to America, including a brief history of the Potato Famine, and the roles that the Irish played once in America. Students can also read about Irish traditions and famous Irish Americans, and find resources for more information.
Williams, B. & Gordonson, K. (2005). U.S. history in pictures: Immigration pictures. Culver City, CA: Social Studies School Service.
Eight pictures that depict different immigrant lives in America. Teacher’s Guide provides background information on the images, an image analysis worksheet as well as a contextual analysis worksheet, and related web sites.
American Library Association. (June, 2006). Contemporary Immigrant Experiences in Children's Books. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/emiert/sites/ala.org.emiert/files/content/usefullinks/contempimmigrant.pdf
Annotated bibliography of children’s books about immigration.
The Library of Congress. (June 24, 2005). Selected images of Ellis Island and immigration, ca. 1880-1920, & Selected views of the Statue of Liberty. Retrieved from
Teacher Resource. Includes 12 interesting pictures from the time period that teachers may find useful for immigration lessons. There is an option to either download or order the pictures.
PBS. (2002). Freedom: A history of US, Webisode 8, Segment 7. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/historyofus/web08/index.html
Middle/High School/Teacher Resource. This segment gives the story of a Russian woman who immigrated to America, and her transition to living in America. There are options to listen to the story, take a quiz afterwards, and check the resources. Additional resources are given as well as a thorough Teacher’s Guide to the section.
Scholastic. (2008). Immigration: Stories of yesterday and today. Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/index.htm.
Elementary/Middle. This site provides profiles of immigrants who arrived long ago, and of immigrant children who have arrived recently. More detailed information is provided on various countries, Ellis Island (including an interactive tour), crossing the Atlantic, life in New York for immigrants, and more topics related to the people being profiled. A Teacher’s Guide is provided with lesson plan ideas and other helpful information. Graphing tools are available for students to create their own immigrant charts and graphs. Book lists are also provided for various grade levels.
Think Quest. (2005). Immigration: The living mosaic of people, culture & hope. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/20619/index.html.
Middle/High School/Teacher Resource. This site provides stories of immigration from the past and present, as well as more in depth look on English, German, Italian, Irish, African, Japanese, Chinese, and Jewish immigrants. A history of Ellis Island is given, as well as information about the Statue of Liberty.
Githens, M. (2013). Contested voices: Women immigrants in today's world. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
The text focuses on immigrant women in Europe, Canada, and the United States and the pressures they experience as they adapt and adjust to a new environment. Women now are the majority of today's immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, most are married, but not accompanied by a husband or adult male family member, and many of these women are accompanied only by their children. Some come as temporary workers; some enter illegally to find employment. The author found that all current immigrant women faced problems adjusting to their new environments, such as anti-immigrant views and government policies and regulations which reinforced traditional roles expected of women. Governments often gave a priority to women who immigrate for the purpose of family unification, granted temporary work visas for women in stereotypic female occupations, and were reluctant to grant asylum or refugee status to women with children who are unaccompanied by a male family member. Immigrant women who were physically, culturally, or religiously different from people in the new country faced greater employment and adjustment problems. Women immigrants' primary motive for immigrating was economic: the desire to earn money and send it to their families in their home country. Personal growth, such as upgrading job credentials was a secondary motive. Social networks helped women immigrants deal with feelings of loneliness, changes in climate, communicating with people who spoke a different language, gathering information about jobs, finding medical care, dealing with children, identifying sources for basic necessities, and addressing legal issues. However, social networks also reinforced traditional gender expectations for women, including employment options. The author concluded that women immigrants' status as workers, family members, immigrant standing (refugee, asylum seeker, documented, or undocumented), educational achievement, language proficiency, and ethnicity affected their efforts to create their social identities. Strong social networks helped women deal with contradictory values and pressures and develop "hybrid" personalities who could function in two worlds.
Lackie, J. (2012). I don't cry, but I remember: A Mexican immigrant's story of endurance. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.
The book is a result of nearly one year of interviews from 1994 to 1995 the author conducted with Viviana, a pseudonym and the subject of the book. The book was originally designed for Viviana's descendants, but the author also included research about immigrants to compare Viviana's experiences to general trends among immigrants and immigration experiences to appeal to a larger audience. Viviana and her husband Jorge and some of her children came to the United States in 1946 after World War II because of economic hardships in Mexico. They had 12 children, eventually settled in Colorado to work in the sugar beet industry, although they also harvested onions, potatoes, and other produce. Viviana suffered from physical and emotional abuse from Jorge throughout her marriage, and her children also experienced physical abuse from her husband. Viviana was proud of being a hard worker and taking care of her family with so few resources. She did the cooking, laundry, cleaning, and mending without any labor saving devices as well as worked in the fields. Viviana was pleased that all her children grew up to be hard workers too. Her strong religious faith was very important to her, although she never attended church or her own children's baptisms because her husband did not allow it. Viviana was proud to become an American citizen and receive social benefits to allow her finally to have a small house after almost 50 years of living in the United States, although she also recognized the discrimination she and other Mexican Americans experienced in the United States. Viviana lamented the lack of governmental assistance in Mexico, which kept many people in poverty, and appreciated how the United States government helped those who needed it. Although Viviana could have become bitter because of her unhappy marriage and her many hardships in the United States, she became wise and compassionate.
Pearce, S. C., Clifford, E. J. & Tandon, R. (2011). Immigration and women: Understanding the American experience. New York: New York University Press.
The authors focused on the social, cultural, and employment aspects of adult foreign-born women in the United States in the early 21st century. They completed 89 in-depth interviews with women from such locations as Atlanta, Chicago, Morgantown, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC The women were all considered immigrants on immigrant and nonimmigrant visas and those who naturalized. One trend the authors noted was the growing portion of women lawful permanent residents who outnumbered men and the growing number of undocumented women, although men were the majority of undocumented immigrants. A high proportion of new lawful permanent resident women held managerial and professional jobs. Another trend was that large numbers of women were migrating autonomously, often sponsored by family members who had already settled in the United States. This was a change from the historical pattern of men migrating first, then their wives following later. Yet another trend was that immigrant women were more highly educated than previous generations and were more likely to be employed. Immigrant women were predominantly serving as domestic workers, but were also serving in professional jobs requiring advanced educational degrees. Yet another trend was the importance of resilience for immigrant women in how they dealt with difficulties in their home countries and after they migrated to the United States. They noted personal resources as well as religious communities and activist organizations as helping them provide the resilience they needed. Immigrant women took risks to leave their home country and create a new life in the United States. They redefined the meaning of home as they decided if they would stay in the United States or return to their native country. Even if immigrant women chose to remain in the United States, they did not necessarily identify themselves as American. Immigrant women enjoyed new-found autonomy, opportunities to support themselves economically, leave abusive relationships, and change traditional gender roles in the United States that they did not have in their home country. However, they wanted to maintain some cultural values from their home country, such as the importance of community, and were critical of some aspects of American culture, such as capitalism, consumerism, and individualism.
Pipher, M. (2002). The middle of everywhere: Helping refugees enter the American community. New York: Harcourt.
The author wrote the book to introduce refugees from various countries and dispute stereotypes about them for current U.S. residents. She uses the United Nations’ definition for a refugee as “a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution” (p. 18). She also encourages U.S. residents to welcome, become involved with refugees, possibly as cultural brokers, and become aware of the effects of our current policies on refugees. The author focuses specifically on the refugees who settled in Lincoln, Nebraska, her hometown, in the 1990s. She interviewed high school ELL students, elementary students who spoke different languages, consulted at summer camps for refugee children and youth, and attended English classes for parents of students in the public schools. In addition, the author trained members of different cultural groups to be liaisons between mental health professionals and refugees and served as a therapist for some refugees. She interviewed and worked with Kurdish refugees from Pakistan and Iraq, Muslim Albanians, Kakuma refugees from the Sudanese civil war, refugees from Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, Siberia, Ukraine, Mexico, and El Salvador. The author especially encourages teachers to serve as cultural brokers for refugees to provide reliable information on their new country, guide them in deciding what to keep from their first culture, what to integrate from the new culture, and to counteract the materialistic effects of television. Chapter 4 includes a list of skills that cultural brokers should teach refugees, such as how to cross streets, drive a vehicle, balance a checkbook and write checks, and enroll in school. The author also lists characteristics of resilience which help refugees to adapt successfully to living in the U.S., including a future orientation, energy and good health, an ability to pay attention, ambition and initiative, verbal skills, positive mental health, calming skills, flexibility, intentionality, lovability, an ability to love new people, and good moral character. Recommendations for working with refugees are included in the appendix.
Suarez-Orozco, C. Suarex-Orozco, M. M. & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
The authors focused on the experiences of recently arrived foreign born youth ages nine to 14 at the beginning of the study and their families from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, China, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico. The parents were also born in the same country as their children. The authors studied immigrant students' experiences over a five-year period from 1995 until 2002, focusing on seven school districts in Boston and San Francisco which had high numbers of recently arrived immigrants. The factors which helped immigrant students' academic achievement were: having two or more adults in the home, both parents achieved greater educational attainment, having a father working, being a girl, and having higher oral academic English-language proficiency. They discovered that immigrant children and their families arrived in the U.S. eager to face challenges, but often did not have all the resources and skills to achieve academic success on their own. Immigrant students frequently showed a decline in test scores and GPA the longer they lived in the U.S. Most immigrant parents wanted their children to do well in school and go on to college, even though their long work hours, unfamiliarity with English, and limited education did not allow them to help their children with homework or attend school meetings during the day. Many immigrant parents came to the U.S. in order to allow their children to have a better education, but immigrant children frequently attended schools segregated by race, poverty, and language, which did not provide good educational opportunities. Bilingual programs usually provided emotional and social support for immigrant children, but lacked academic rigor. The authors concluded the text with several recommendations for improving educational outcomes for immigrant children. First, we need engaging and relevant schools that maintain high standards and expectations for all students as well as meaningful, nurturing relationships with adults. Second, we need realistic language policies which support immigrant students' desire to learn English, give them ample time to learn English but not eliminate their first language, avoid premature high stakes testing which demean newcomer children and hinder their academic progress, and support school cultures in which immigrant and native children are well integrated. Third, we need to embrace hyphenated identities so that immigrant children can retain their ties to their home culture while also identifying with "American" culture. Fourth, we need to build mentoring and community supports so that immigrant children have access to mentors who can act as cultural guides in a new country and other caring adults who can assist immigrant children in becoming admitted to college. Finally, the authors recommend that we address the issue of undocumented immigrant youth so that they will be able to better themselves and contribute to society and reduce stressful family separations due to lack of documentation.
Annotated bibliography list