• Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3   ·  
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

A heartstoppingly beautiful wordless picture book about migration and empathy.

The migrants must leave the forest. Borders are crossed, sacrifices made, loved ones are lost. It takes such courage to reach the end. At last the journey is over and the migrants arrive. This is the new place.
Through extraordinarily powerful images, Migrants narrates the journey of a group of animals that leaves behind a leafless forest. With forceful simplicity, Migrants shows us the courage, loss and underlying hope migration takes. And that arriving in a new land may mean burying a portion of the past.

Children will empathize quickly with the elegantly illustrated animal characters, each of whom have their own identity with details like clothing, color choices and expressions. The dark pages add weight to the silence of their journey and the individual animals help make the story a universal one. A perfect book to help teach children about refugees and migration, with humanity, inclusivity and empathy.
Readers can’t fail to be moved by this deeply emotional and thought-provoking tale.

“A raw, startling portrait of migration.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

Issa Watanabe was born in Peru in 1980. She has led and developed several projects to promote social integration through art, published a number of books and was selected for the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Book Fair 2018.

Praise for Migrants
“It’s a rare feat: a wordless picture book in which the absence of text intensifies the stories it tells. With its stark dearth of color, seen only where necessary, and evocative imagery, the artist’s pictures make the migrant’s journey — distinct yet everyday — feel palpable. A raw, startling portrait of migration.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Watanabe captures with grace both dignity and determination, and the brilliance of her art’s hues against a velvety black backdrop gives the somber spreads great visual power.”—Publisher’s Weekly

“Rather than protecting children from difficult themes, she uses animals to wordlessly convey the hurt and sacrifice but ultimately underlying hope of such forced journeys.”—The Listener, 50 Best Kids’ Books of 2020

“I don’t think I can come up with enough superlatives for Watanabe’s superb illustrations. She captures a range of emotions in the faces of the anthropomorphic animals.”—The Pirate Tree Blog

Format Your Price
Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 2
Genre Fiction
Category SEL: C Social Awareness, Social Emotional Learning
Copyright 2020
Publisher Gecko Press
Imprint Gecko Press
Language English
Number of Pages 40
Publication Date 2020-10-06
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV039250, JUV039030, JUV002000
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 9 x 9
Guided Reading Level TBD
Features Awards, Original artwork, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews


  • 2021 USBBY Outstanding International Book, Winner, 2021
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2021
  • Kirkus Best Children's Books, Winner, 2020


The Horn Book Magazine

“This powerful portrait—stark, eloquent, and utterly devoid of sentimentality—depicts the arduous, dangerous journeys of migrants all across the globe. It’s a small book that tells a big story of loss and courage.”—The Horn Book Magazine

Publishers Weekly

" . . . Watanabe captures with grace both dignity and determination . . . "—Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“It’s beautiful and harrowing, challenging readers to think.”—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

“It’s a rare feat: a wordless picture book in which the absence of text intensifies the stories it tells. . . . A raw, startling portrait of migration.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

Author, Illustrator: Issa Watanabe

Issa Watanabe was born in Peru, the daughter of an illustrator and a poet. She studied Literature, Fine Arts, and Illustration. She has led projects promoting social integration through art and published many books.