Family Separation: Stories and More

These stories address difficult topics around family separation. Many relate to immigrant stories (both historic and contemporary). These books can be a powerful tool in helping children talk about their feelings and experiences during or after a separation.

Related resources: Immigration and family separation

More related booklists

An Ellis Island Christmas

Illustrated by: Dennis Nolan
Age Level: 9-12

When Krysia is six, her family leaves Poland for America. The journey is difficult, as is the arrival at Ellis Island when the family is separated. While the family waits for Papa, Krysia sits down by the Christmas Tree of the Great Hall at Ellis Island and watches as other fellow travelers begin to sing and dance. The mood is festive, but Krysia begins to worry — will Papa ever return? Cultural details from Polish customs passed down through the author's family enhance the touching story of one family's Ellis Island experience.

From North to South

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda

When Mamá is sent to a detention center in Tijuana because she doesn't have the right immigration papers, José must get used to life without her. He and his father visit Mamá at the center, where they talk about the future in which they will be together. Based on the experiences of René Colato Laínez's students, both he and illustrator Joe Cepeda strike the right balance of honesty and hope in depicting this difficult yet common situation for families along the border.

Home of the Brave

Age Level: 9-12

This novel, written in free verse, tells the story of Kek, an eleven-year-old boy from the Sudan who arrives as a refugee to Minnesota in the middle of winter. In moments both amusing and heartbreaking, it is possible to see through Kek's eyes what it is like for new immigrants who come to this country and to think about the scars that war leaves on its youngest victims. Teacher's Guide available.

Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation

Illustrated by: Leslie Staub
Age Level: 6-9

Danticat’s celebration of storytelling and the bond between mother and child is an empowering one. Saya, whose mother is being detained, writes a story inspired by her mother’s experience. When her father sends Saya’s story to a newspaper, she learns firsthand that one voice, one story, can make a difference.

Mango Moon

Illustrated by: Sue Cornelison
Age Level: 6-9

When a father is taken away from his family and facing deportation, his children are left to grieve and wonder about what comes next. Maricela, Manuel, and their mother face the many challenges of having their lives completely changed by the absence of their father and husband.

My Family Divided: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope

Age Level: 12-14

Before becoming a successful actress and landing a spot on the megahit Netflix show Orange is the New Black, Diane Guerrero was a young girl living in Boston. One day, while Guerrero was at school, her undocumented immigrant parents were taken from their home, detained, and deported to their native country, Colombia. Guerrero's life, which had been full of the support of a loving family, was turned upside down.

My Freedom Trip

Illustrated by: Steve Jenkins
Age Level: 9-12

In this intense and moving book, Frances and Ginger Park share the story of their mother's escape from North Korea as a young girl. On the night that Soo prepares for her freedom trip, she bids her mother a tearful farewell and begins a journey during which she will travel by train and foot to reach the border with South Korea. Filled with suspense and heartache, the story is a tribute to those who set out for freedom — and those who stay behind.

My Shoes and I

Age Level: 9-12

Mario is leaving El Salvador with a new pair of shoes — and a good thing, too, because he has a long and difficult journey ahead of him to reach a new country. His shoes carry him through rain and across mountains, all the way to the river where his mother is waiting on the other side. Young readers may need some information explaining the context of the story, which is based on the author's journey from El Salvador in 1985. Painted illustrations on grainy wood backgrounds match the gritty but hopeful tone of the story.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale

Age Level: 6-9

When the rains don't come in the spring, Papá Rabbit sets out north to work in the carrot and lettuce fields. He doesn't return when expected, however, and his eldest son, Pancho Rabbit, embarks on a journey to find his father. He meets a coyote who agrees to show him a shortcut, but only in exchange for Pancho's food. After an exhausting journey, Pancho is left with nothing — except the hope of finding his father. An author's note provides extensive information and recommended resources. Winner 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and Author Honor Award.

Soon, Annala

Illustrated by: Julie Downing
Age Level: 6-9

Annala lives with her family in New York — everyone, that is, except for her two little brothers. She misses them terribly, but whenever she asks her parents when they will come, they can only respond, "Soon, Annala." Annala can't help wonder, however, if that day will ever arrive. A touching depiction of the separation that so many immigrant families endure in search of a better life. Out of print but may be available in libraries.

Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro

Illustrated by: Honorio Robleda Tapia
Age Level: 9-12
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

What happens when a small girl suddenly starts turning green, as green as a cilantro leaf, and grows to be fifty feet tall? She becomes Super Cilantro Girl, and can overcome all obstacles, that's what! Esmeralda Sinfronteras is the winning super-hero in this effervescent tale about a child who flies huge distances and scales tall walls in order to rescue her mom. Award-winning writer Juan Felipe Herrera taps into the wellsprings of his imagination to address and transform the concerns many first-generation children have about national borders and immigrant status.

You Weren't with Me

Illustrated by: Erich Ippen Jr.
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish

Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit are together after a difficult separation, but even though they missed each other, Little Rabbit is not ready to cuddle up and receive Big Rabbit's love. Little Rabbit needs Big Rabbit to understand what it felt like when they were apart. "Sometimes I am very mad. I don't understand why you weren't with me," says Little Rabbit, "I worry you will go away again." Big Rabbit listens carefully and helps Little Rabbit to feel understood and loved.