As the United States, a so-called “nation of immigrants,” struggles to find its better nature, it’s heartening to see picture books that help guide the way, offering mirrors and windows to immigrants and U.S.–born children alike.

On The Day Saida Arrived (Blue Dot Kids Press, Sept. 15), the unnamed narrator is distressed to see her new classmate has lost her words and determines to help Saida find them. In this luminous book by Susana Gómez Redondo, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer and translated by Lawrence Schimel, readers see what’s too rarely shown: the growth of a friendship of equals, as Saida teaches the narrator Arabic and the narrator responds in kind.

Thao Lam uses the metaphor of The Paper Boat (OwlKids Books, Sept. 15) to tell the story of one family’s escape from Vietnam, the terror and danger of the journey presented unflinchingly but at a surreal remove to communicate what too many children have experienced and still endure. There are no words, allowing children to sink into the illustrations again and again, extracting more meaning with each visit.

What’s in The Suitcase (HMH Books, Sept. 29) that the Seussian blue creature hauls behind him? The animals who greet him wonder at his response: a teacup, a chair and table, and, somehow, a kitchen. It can’t be—but it is, as they realize in Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ touching book. The stranger may have left his physical home, but he’s brought his memories along with him.

Issa Watanabe invites readers to accompany a group of Migrants (Gecko, Oct. 6) as the anthropomorphic animals wordlessly make their way by foot and by boat. Death accompanies them too, literally, and readers see the group shrinking in number as it navigates peril and privation. It’s beautiful and harrowing, challenging readers to think.

Vicky Smith is a young readers’ editor.