Children’s Authors Take On the Refugee Crisis

“I wanted to make individual refugees visible and turn statistics into names and faces that kids could relate to,” Mr. Gratz said.

The wave of children’s books about Muslim asylum seekers is arriving amid the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II, as millions of civilians — many of them children — flee the wars and insurgencies in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Syrian civil war alone has uprooted more than two million children, according to Unicef.


Mr. Gratz signing copies of “Refugee.”

Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times

“It’s really important to engage children with the world as it is, and the world right now is a very complicated place,” said Zareen Jaffery, executive editor of Salaam Reads, a Muslim-themed children’s imprint at Simon & Schuster.

Some of these new novels explore perilous journeys, as refugees entrust their lives to smugglers and navigate war zones controlled by rebel groups and extremists. In “Escape From Aleppo,” a middle-grade novel by N. H. Senzai, a Syrian girl named Nadia flees her country for Turkey after civil war breaks out after the failed democratic uprising.

Others focus on the discrimination and sense of displacement faced by Muslim asylum seekers. “The Lines We Cross,” a young adult novel by Randa Abdel-Fattah released by Scholastic in May, centers on a teenage Muslim refugee from Afghanistan who is accosted by Islamophobes and nationalists in Australia, where her family runs a restaurant. The girl, Mina, develops a crush on a boy whose parents are anti-immigration, anti-Muslim activists. “In a political environment where there’s such a demonization of refugees, I wanted readers to understand what their lives are like,” said Ms. Abdel-Fattah, who lives in Sydney.

Mr. Gratz said that he expected a book like “Refugee,” an unflinching and sympathetic look at…

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