Yesterday was World Refugee Day. With asylum seekers and refugees being in the news a lot these days, your child might read some of the headlines or overhear features on radio or TV and ask you questions. It is not always easy to speak about subjects like these. Sometimes reading an age-appropriate book on the topic can help and be a conservation starter. Luckily there are quite a few excellent children's books available in German. Literacy experts such as Maren Bonnacker of the Jury of Deutscher Jugenditeraturpreis stress that books on topics like these are important to rouse empathy in children.
Here are a few book recommendations from us, some very explicitly about a family leaving home in the midst of turmoil and war, but if you want to tread things more lightly you will also find books that just tell about the experience of living in a country without knowing its language or being different.
Francesca Sanna DIE FLUCHT
This beautifully illustrated and awarded winning picture book tells tells the story of a family that is forced to flee from their home in the midst of war. Based on conservations Francesca Sanna had with refugee families in Italy she tells the story from the perspective of the children. The illustrations are colorful and to some extent abstract, making the story universal. It starts with a family in a home just like ours. The father dies. The mother is forced to flee. And the book ends with hope for a better life, the mother hugging her children.
4 years and up
Susane Gómez Redondo / Sonja Wimmer
AM TAG, ALS SAIDA ZU UNS KAM
A little sad girl called Saida arrives one day in winter. Another girl wants to be her friend, but it seems Saida has no words. So the little girl starts looking everywhere for Saida's words: in pockets, under tables, among the crayons or in the fountain in the park. She can't find them, so with little gestures she manages to become friends with her. When her father explains to her that Saida hasn't lost the words but comes from another country where they speak a different language, she starts to exchange her words with Saida's. A poetic tale of friendship and languages.
5 years and up
Kirsten Boie/ Jan Birck
BESTIMMT WIRD ALLES GUT
Kirsten Boie tells a very concrete story in this book: she wrote down the true story of 9 year old Hassan and 11 year old Rahel that lived in Holms, Syria. We learn how they first try to live a normal life in the midst of war. Then the parents decide to leave - leaving behind their family, friends and belongings. They get on a plane to Egypt, travel on a tiny boat to Italy and then further by train to Germany. Kirsten Boie is one of Germany's most skilled children's books authors, who knows how to capture and find the right words for children. The book is bilingual, published in German and Arabic.
5 year and up
DER GEHEIMNISVOLLE KOFFER VON HERRN BENJAMIN
Mr. Benjamin was a philosopher with unusual ideas. Because of his ideas he had to flee from Nazi Germany to France and then later on from Paris over the pyranees. On his last passage by foot in the mountains he dragged a heavy suitcase along - until today nobody knows what was in the suitcase. Neither does anybody know where Mr. Benjamin and his suitcase ended, all traces have been lost. But until today people speculate what might have been in that suitcase.
This book with striking illustrations in collage manner manages to bring across the plight of Walter Benjamin in a manner that is appropriate for children. It evokes the importance of ideas and how they can live on for many decades.
6 years and up
WENN MENSCHEN FLÜCHTEN
If you are looking for a non fiction book that explains matter of factly why people leave their countries and homes, this book is a good choice. It tackles the various aspects: Which countries people currently flee from? How they organize they flight. It focuses on refuges arriving in Europe currently, so it doesn't quite fit if you want to explain the current news in the US.
8 years and up
Djadi is eleven, when he arrives in Frankfurt. It is unclear how he got there, but he lost his family tragically in Syria. He strands in an apartment of social worker Jan and his friend that live there together. He ist lost and lonesome, doesn't know the language and customs of Germany. Slowly he makes friends with Wladi, a retired teacher and starts to find his way.
Peter Härtling was a refuge himself after WW II coming from Eastern Europe. DJADI is a very touching book, told in concise language.
10 years and up (if read aloud also a little earlier)