Read Through History VII: Immigrants

This booklist features stories of people immigrating to the United States. These stories describe the various reasons people come to the United States (for job opportunities, to flee from war etc.) and the challenges they face when they arrive. The first nine stories on this booklist are all immigrant stories from around 1900, while the following seven stories are immigrant stories from other time periods.


The Story of the Statue of LibertyThe Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsy and Giulio Maestro. In 1871, french sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi decided to build a statute and give it to the United States to celebrate the United States’ 100th birthday. In The Story of the Statue of Liberty, Betsy and Giulios Maestro tell the story of how the Statue of Liberty was built. Ages 6+

Emma's PoemEmma’s Poem by Linda Glaser. Poet Emma Lazarus wrote the famous words inscribed on the pedestal of the statue of liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” Emma’s Poem introduces readers to Emma Lazarus and explains how her words gave the Statue of Liberty new meaning. Ages 6+

Peppe the LamplighterPeppe The Lamplighter by Elise Bartone and Ted Lewin. The story of a young immigrant boy who lives in Little Italy around the turn of the century. Desperate to earn money for his family, Peppe takes a job as a lamplighter. Ages 5+


When Jesse Came Across the SeaWhen Jesse Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest and P.J. Lynch. A beautiful story about a 13-year-old girl named Jessie who is given the opportunity to go to America to become a seamstress. To take advantage of this opportunity, Jessie must set off on her own, leaving her beloved grandmother behind. Ages 5+

Grandfather's JourneyGrandfather’s Journey by Allen Say. Grandfather’s Journey traces Allen Say’s family history, beginning when his grandfather first traveled from Japan to California. It describes the feeling of being torn between a love of California and a love of Japan that both Say and his grandfather feel: “The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.” While this theme seems best understood by older kids — adults even — my six-year-old daughter was mesmerized by this book. The illustrations are beautiful. Ages 6+

Brave GirlBrave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet. The true story of Ukranian immigrant Clara Lemlich. Clara Lemlich worked as a seamstress in the garment industry and led the first strike protesting the poor working conditions she and other workers faced. Ages 6+

LandedLanded by Milly Lee and Yangsook Choi. Pursuant to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, many Chinese immigrants were detained at Angel Island and only permitted to enter the United States if they passed difficult tests. Landed is a suspenseful story about one boy’s efforts to pass these tests and join his father in the United States. Ages 5+

Journey to Ellis IslandJourney to Ellis Island: How My Father Came to America by Carol Bierman and Laurie McGaw. In this true story, author Carol Bierman describes how her grandmother Rachel and father Yehuda fled war-torn Russia. The family survives a harrowing journey out of Russia, but Yehuda’s hand was injured by a stray bomb while they were escaping. At Ellis Island, Yehuda must convince doctors that, despite his injuries, he is healthy enough to enter the United States. Ages 8+

Hope in My HeartMy America: Sofia’s Immigrant Diary series by Kathryn Lasky. A series of three books, written in diary format, about a 9-year-old Italian immigrant Sofia Monari. In the first book in this series — Hope in My Heart — Sofia is separated from her family at Ellis Island and sent to quarantine. In the next two books in this series — Home at Last and An American Spring — Sofia’s family struggles to make a home for themselves in Boston. Ages 8+

Immigrant stories throughout U.S. history:

Pilgrim CatPilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock and Doris Ettlinger. An engaging, fictional story about a girl Faith and a cat Pounce who travel aboard the Mayflower. Pilgrim Cat is based on research at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Ages 5+

A New Look at Jamestown1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange and Ira Block. A New Look at Jamestown explains why English settlers journeyed to North America. It also describes how the Powhatan Indians who had long inhabited the region lived and why two-thirds of the colonists who first landed in Jamestown died during the year following their arrival. A New Look at Jamestown features wonderful photographs of the Jamestown Settlement living history museum that help bring the history of Jamestown to life. Ages 8+

Meet KirstenMeet Kirsten by Janet Beeler Shaw. In this first book in a six-book series, Kirsten Larson travels from Sweden to America with her family. In the following books in the series, Kirsten learns to speak English and fit into her new country while at the same time retaining Swedish traditions that are important to her and her family (e.g. celebrating St. Lucia Day). Ages 5+

CooliesCoolies by Yin and Chris Soentpiet. A moving story about two Chinese brothers — Shek and Wong — who move to the United States to find helping build the transcontinental railroad. Coolies includes plenty of action to capture and hold kids’ attention. This book explains what motivated Chinese workers to leave China and move to America to help build the railroad, the hard and dangerous work involved and the prejudice they faced. Ages 6+

The Lotus SeedThe Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland and Tatsuro Kiuchi. The story of a family who escapes war-torn Vietnam and comes to the United States. They manage to bring a single lotus seed with them. Ages 5+


My Name is YoonMy Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits and Gabi Swiatkowska. “My name is Yoon. I came here from Korea, a country far away,” this story begins. When Yoon first goes to school in the United States, she does not like it and refuses to share her name with the other students and teacher. Three other picture books about the challenges faced by immigrant children fitting in at school are One Green Apple by Eve Bunting, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi and My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams. Ages 4+

My Name is SangoelMy Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams, Khadra Mohammed and Catherine Stock. The story of a boy who flees his home in Sudan after his father is killed in a war. When Sangoel arrives in America, he is determined to keep his name, but he must find a way to teach others to pronounce it. An endnote offers children a clear explanation of what it means to be a refugee. Ages 5+

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This entry was posted in Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+ and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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