Finding Home: 5 Middle Grade Novels About Immigration

Inside Out and Back Again

Moving is tough; from living in a new house, to making new friends, and starting a new school. But it’s even tougher when that move also includes learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture, and trying not to stick out any more than necessary. Here are five middle grade novels about moving to a new country.

The Turtle of Oman, by Naomi Shihab
Aref has never known anything other than his home in Oman. But now his family is packing up for a 3-year relocation to Ann Arbor, Michigan so that his parents can attend graduate school. As the days remaining in Oman dwindle away, Aref’s anxiety increases. There are suitcases to be packed, final moments to savor, and goodbyes to be exchanged. But most troubling is Aref’s impending separation from his grandfather, Siddi. This is a book about the struggle to look forward and backwards, at the same time.

Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai
For Hà, everything she could want or need is in Saigon. The bustling markets, the traditions, the companionship of her best friends. But when the Vietnam War arrives at her doorstep, Hà and her family are forced to flee. Boarding a ship to America, they literally sail off into the unknown. This beautiful story was inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam for the night-and-day-different world of Alabama.

Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
Esperanza can’t imagine a life any different than the one she has. The daughter of a wealthy Mexican rancher, she has a sprawling home, fancy dresses, and servants to meet all her family’s needs. Until tragedy strikes the family, and Esperanza and her mother are forced to move to California in search of work during the Great Depression. They join other migrant workers on a potato farm, but the conditions are poor, the hours brutal, and the illness sweeping. Esperanza must find not only her own voice, but the courage to lead others in finding theirs as well.

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas
Originally born in Iran, Zomorod Yousefzadeh and her family have bounced around a few times, finally settling in Newport, California. Being the new kid is hard enough, but being an immigrant new kid from a country nobody knows anything about is even tougher.  Which is why Zomorod has decided to rechristen herself as “Cindy.” For a while, things seem to be working out, but when the Iranian Revolution begins, anti-Iranian sentiment grows, making it impossible for the Yousefzadeh family to blend in. While they worry over their relatives and friends back home, Zomorod’s father loses his job for political reasons. With a foot in both worlds, suddenly being the new kid is the least of Zomorod’s problems.

Chloe in India, by Kate Darnton
Chloe is staring a new school, half a world away from her Boston home. With her blond hair and obvious language barrier, she really sticks out at Class Five Premium Academy in New Delhi.  Trying to find a way to fit in, Chloe attempts to befriend the cool girl, Anvi, who comes from one of the wealthiest families at the academy. But as is often the case, that elite inner circle can be a tough one to crack, and Chloe discovers she has more in common with Lakshmi, the far-less-acceptable poor girl being raised by a single father. What do you do when you’re the new kid and you just want to make ONE friend so that you have someone to sit with at lunch?  It seems that some things remain the same, no matter where you are.

What are your favorite books about kids who have to start over in a new country?

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