Navigating childhood and adolescence is challenging enough for any kid, but the process can be particularly rough for immigrant children. School offers a refuge–but also a gantlet of unfamiliar social norms, vexing cultural differences and mean-spirited bullies. These six new books for young readers all provide different windows on the immigrant experience in America, from a Jamaican teen trying to help her family avoid deportation to an Indian boy forging alliances in a New Jersey cafeteria. Taken together, they serve as a reminder that we all once came from somewhere else.
1 The Sun Is Also a Star
BY NICOLA YOON
Daniel, an ambitious high school senior whose parents emigrated from South Korea, is determined to get the girl he just met to fall in love with him. The only hitch: Natasha and her family are hours away from being deported to Jamaica, a decade after they arrived in New York City. As Natasha tries desperately to save her family and Daniel faces an admissions interview with a Yale alum, the two realize their fates will be intertwined.
2 This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From
BY JAMIE LEE CURTIS, ILLUSTRATED BY LAURA CORNELL
The actor’s picture book reminds kids that almost all of our ancestors were once immigrants–and encourages them to imagine what that experience would have been like and what they would pack on their own one-way trip with a small suitcase: “My signed Harry Potter?” speculates one character. “My baby-tooth tin, my aunt’s high school class ring, my dad’s Navy pin.”
3 Save Me a Seat
BY SARAH WEEKS AND GITA VARADARAJAN
Joe has lived in New Jersey his whole life. Ravi and his family just moved there from India. While Ravi has a hard time fitting in at his new school (the homemade curry lunches don’t help), shy Joe struggles with a bully. The two boys form a bond in the cafeteria and join forces against a shared enemy–boosting each other’s confidence along the way.
BY REBECCA YOUNG, ILLUSTRATED BY MATT OTTLEY
This abstract story follows “a boy who had to leave his home … and find another,” carrying with him a teacup full of dirt from the place where he used to play. As he floats to sea in a rowboat, older readers will be reminded of the kids facing similarly perilous journeys around the world–and get a sense of the bravery and loneliness that come with having to leave your homeland.
5 Making Friends With Billy Wong
BY AUGUSTA SCATTERGOOD
In 1950s Arkansas, Azalea doesn’t expect to make any friends while spending the summer with her grandma. But then she meets Billy, a Chinese-American boy staying with his relatives, part of a wave of Asian immigrants who opened grocery stores in the Jim Crow South. At first Azalea doesn’t think they’ll have anything in common, but that changes when she sees the way Billy’s kindness and hard work are met with prejudice and bigotry.
BY ANNE BOOTH, ILLUSTRATED BY SAM USHER
A camel narrates this story of Mary and Joseph fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt with the baby Jesus after they learn King Herod will seek to kill the infant. Coming just before the Christmas season, it’s a moving reminder that this was a family of immigrants and refugees, journeying “under starlight, through empty streets, while people were sleeping, hoping for the kindness of strangers. Again.”
This appears in the October 31, 2016 issue of TIME.