The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

girl who smiled beads

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: The author’s refugee experience escaping the Rwandan genocide and the years she spent traveling from one camp to another before immigrating to the US.

What made me pick it up: It was really well reviewed.

My favorite parts: Wamariya escapes at such a young age she almost doesn’t understand death and war and why they are walking and not stopping. She yearns her whole life to go back to her family, as it was, even as she reconnects with them. It is heartbreaking, both reading of the little girl who does not comprehend and as the adult who cannot stop grieving all that is lost. I so admire her indomitable spirit and the unbreakable will of her older sister who helped her survive through multiple countries and camps. Wamariya examines the many ways to move past trauma, especially that caused by civil war and genocide, with no easy answers only her personal truth and what she sees others attempting as well. If you are American you will feel shame for the atrocities we ignored in 1994 and the ongoing ones we continue to ignore worldwide. You will also be immensely grateful for all you have lucked into based on the geography of your birth. Mostly, you will want to help refugees any way you can.

Who it’s great for: Readers who want to learn more about the unending trauma of war.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells

Dear World by Bana Alabad

dear world

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A child’s account of surviving and escaping the ongoing war in Syria.

What made me pick it up: Bana Alabed’s pleas for peace and assistance reached the world through Twitter, but I knew her book would tell a more complete story.

My favorite things: Bana’s clear voice is heartwrenching, a reminder to care for refugees. Her mother, Fatemah, includes essays written for Bana, explaining her point of view and her experiences. Their words in concert with each other serve to humanize the numbers and news reports and give a personal story to the images of Syrian children that have circulated widely.

Who it’s great for:  Adults and teens trying to understand the war in Syria. Readers who to understand what the day to day struggle is like in the Syrian Civil War, and those wanting to build empathy for refugees.

Abby’s rating: four shells

Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea by Melissa Fleming

Originally published: 2017

What it’s about: A Syrian refugee and her many tales of suffering and escape.

What made me pick it up?: It was on one list or another about refugees.

My favorite things: This book is stunning. I cannot believe how much struggle this woman has gone through. The author tells the story of Doaa and her family and their experiences masterfully. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. If you or someone you know doesn’t fully understand the crisis in Syria it will be indelibly etched in your brain after reading this. It will make you feel powerless and driven to enact change all at once.

Who it’s great for: This has horrifically violent scenes so it’s better suited for mature teens or adults. Anyone interested in learning more about the refugee crisis or the long war in Syria.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.

Teacup by Rebecca Young


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A boy is set adrift on an ocean with only his backpack and his teacup of dirt from home.

What made me pick it up: It was on a list of books for children about refugees and the illustrations looked amazing.

My favorite things: I was not mistaken. These illustrations are, exactly as they are described in the cover blurb, stunning. The story of a boy adrift looking for a new land with only the things he can carry is very moving and simply told so that even young children will understand. It reminded me strongly of a children’s version of The Life of Pi, but this focused much more on hope.

Who it’s great for: Fans of beautiful illustration. Parents who want to talk about refugees with their children.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Pick up a copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or are your local library.


Lost and Found Cat by Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A touching picture book about one refugee family’s experience fleeing their home, and the even more unbelievable story of the cat they took with them.

What made me pick it up: It was on a list of children’s books about refugees and as a cat person it piqued my interest so I placed it on hold.

My favorite things: This book beautifully illustrates the hardships that face many families fleeing areas of the world like Syria. I may have been having an emotional day, but it brought me to tears how much something so universal as the love of a pet helped bring people together across countries to reunite this pet with his family.

Who it’s great for: Young readers who want to learn more about refugees. Cat lovers. Those who want a perfect example of how much good there is in the world.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Find Lost and Found Cat on Amazon (affiliate link) or at your local library.