French Friday: In French and English, Stories and Songs For Our Times



In this first part of the 21st century, immigration is politicians’ main focus, whether in the U.S. or across Europe. It is also on most citizens’ mind, regardless of their political opinions.

I’m not an expert on immigration reform, but it is clear that unlike the immigration of the 1990s, for example, global conflicts, armed or not, are now the #1 reason for people to flee their native land.

The social and economic roots of gang culture in Central America or the wars in Africa and the Middle East are far too complex to allow me the right to write anything about them.

Like you, I am only a witness of their consequences.

Our children are, too.

And since they witness other children in distress they ask questions and deserve, if not lengthy answers, at least some explanation.

Children can be sometimes self-centered, but they are also instinctively and immensely compassionate.

Over the last weeks, as I kept thinking of all the children, directly affected by immigration policies or disturbed by the current news reports, I wrote down a list of books that address the topics of exile and immigration and have been written just for kids. I only list them, linking to the authors and illustrators’ websites, whenever available.



The Journey Written and Illustrated by Francesca Sanna

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey (in English and Arabic) Written by Margriet Ruurs, Translated by Fallah Raheem and Ilustrated by Nizar Ali Badr

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation Written by Edwidge Anticat and Illustrated by Leslie Staub

Refugee by Alan Gratz

This is a novel for older readers. A must read that I discovered after Librariahn reviewed it on her blog.

Refugees and Migrants (Children in Our World) Written by Ceri Roberts and Illustrated by Hanane Kai

Global Conflict (Children in Our World) by Louise Spilsbury

This book is a good start for children who want to understand why people leave their native land for a foreign country. And it’s great for their parents too.

Strictly No Elephants Written by Lisa Mantchev and Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

This Picture Book is much lighter in tone and is the only book in this short selection that’s not addressing immigration per se. It is, however, a wonderful story that tackles differences. Differences often scare people and convince some to keep anyone looking, living, or speaking differently at bay. There is a happy ending to this charming and yet meaningful book designed for young children.


Yesterday night I decided to add a list of French songs to these books. I was really lucky to find an article that includes some of my favorite songs about immigrants, refugees, or simply foreigners.

The song Mercy, inspired by the birth of a baby girl aboard the humanitarian ship Aquarius in the Mediterranean Sea in 2017, represented France this year at the Eurovision, a singing competition. Mercy’s mother had fled her native Nigeria to escape violence and prison. The child’s father was already jailed in Lybia. The song didn’t win the competition but gave a face to the 21st century’s human migration stories.

Here is a version with English subtitles and the real baby Mercy.

A year after her birth, she and her mother are two of thousands in one the largest refugee camps, based in Sicilia.




P.S. About the flowers that illustrate this post.

Last week my husband picked a bouquet of lilies at Trader Joe’s because it was our anniversary. The cashier asked him about his plans for the day. Learning that we would celebrate our anniversary, he announced that the flowers were on Trader Joe’s. We still don’t know if it’s a store policy or if the cashier took the initiative.

The lilies have bloomed a day at a time, releasing an exquisite fragrance that filters through the house. I love flowers of all kinds, but this bouquet has been particularly gorgeous. Each flower has opened, slowly and perfectly. Well chosen bouquet to start with, for sure 🙂

But I also believe that it carries a random act of kindness. The smallest are often the ones that matter most, particularly during hardship and heartbreaking moments. On my side, I just try to return each one.

I wish you all a beautiful weekend and also a safe and meaningful Fourth of July!






  1. Your lilies, laced through your reflections on the difficult subject of immigration, added a picture of hope for our children. Maybe that’s what I held onto as I read your article…the children, where ever they are from are children who are our future. They way they are treated is how they learn to treat others. Your selection of children’s books are some I read at the Arne Nixon Center for Children’s Literature earlier in the week. Thank you for sharing them. The story of the lilies from your husband adds a touch of hope that the little things we do that make a difference.

    • Thank you, Joan. You’re so right to remind us that the way we treat children have deep consequences. We often feel powerless when facing such tough moments. Adding our voice when we are concerned is a first step. Stories remain our way to learn about others, to recognize our human universality and hopefully to care more. There were many more books to add to this short selection, but they are all fairly recent and represent a new face of immigration, through migrants and refugees’ stories.

  2. hilarymb says:

    Hi Evelyne – how lovely to see the flowers … beautiful colour and yes they do perfume the air so wondrously. Thank you for these books … and for the music – which I will need to come back to, and then listen.

    What a great list of appropriate books … I’ve just written about Ai WeiWei’s film on ‘Human Flows’ in my #WATWB latest post … if you can get to see the film – it highlights a great deal.

    We are in desperate times … thanks for this and as Joan says .. .they are children of our time … have a peaceful weekend and 4th July – Hilary

    • Thank you, Hilary for stopping by and suggesting your blog post. I haven’t seen the movie but heard of course of Ai WeiWei. I’ll pay you a visit. Enjoy your weekend too!

  3. I kind of “get” that we don’t have room for everyone who needs a better home … but surely we have room for some people. There are a lot of jobs in this country that don’t get done because no one will do them. Picking crops is one of them and a huge one. We have no more cotton crops because Americans are NEVER poor enough to pick cotton.

    So many of our “local” businesses are run by immigrants and always were. All my ancestors were immigrants. They all worked their buns off, too and their grand and great-grandchildren are the good citizens of today. Surely there is a better way to deal with this.

    • Regardless of the final decision, whether allowing people to enter the U.S. or not, keeping kids with their mom or dad or adult who accompanies them is a must. I can only imagine how the little ones must feel. Consequences on young minds are huge. Looks to me that most adults seem or want to ignore this.
      And yes, except Native Americans, we are all immigrants when we live in the United States. Agree that there must be a much more humane way to cope with the current crisis. Thank you, Marilyn for adding your concern.

  4. I love random acts of kindness. I think they are even better given than revived. Thanks for the resources. People need help figuring things out during times like this.

    • I remember a few of your posts about random acts of kindness, Dan. These acts seem so little in comparison to heroic behavior, but if we keep being kind toward each other, particularly for no reason toward people we don’t know, my hope is that it becomes contagious. Each time someone smiles at me for no reason, says a nice word, still for no reason, lets me exit a parking spot or doesn’t fight for one, I notice and automatically want to reciprocate. Because you’re right, we feel even better when we give than when we receive.
      I’ve read the books I selected and they are a first step to start discussions with young children.

  5. A lovely random act of kindness with the lilies, but your post is an act of kindness too Evelyne, to try to help children to understand and to feel empathy for others.

  6. Here’s a late entry. Nicola Yoon’s YA book, THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR, hinges its story on a deportation.

    (Oh, happy belated anniversary!)

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