10 Best Authors Like Onjali Rauf to Tug on Your Heartstrings

Check out our list of the best authors like Onjali Rauf. Their stories give insight into the plight of those struggling in a way young readers understand.

Onjali Rauf is the bestselling author of The Boy at the Back of The Class. The bestselling book is her first novel, which she published in 2019. Born in 1981, this British author strives to use her books to help children understand the issues of the modern world. In her debut novel, which won the Blue Peter Book Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, she talks about what happens when a Syrian refugee becomes a new student in a classroom of elementary children. 

The Boy in the Back of the Class uses humor and heartwarming emotions to help kids understand the refugee crisis. After its success, she also published The Star Outside My Window in 2019. This book talks about a brother and sister living in foster care, touching again on real-world problems affecting children today. The Night Bus Hero came next in 2020, and it spoke about bullying and misbehavior from the boy’s point of view, causing the trouble.

As well as being one of the best children’s book authors, Rauf is a humanitarian and activist. The author founded Making Herstory, an organization encouraging people to move proactively against the abuse and trafficking of women and children. Rauf also founded O’s Refugee Aid Team, which supports refugees in Calais and Dunkirk. If you’re a fan of how she writes about children facing challenges, check out this list of the best authors like Onjali Rauf.

Best Authors Like Onjali Rauf Ranked

1. Eoin Colfer, 1965 –

Eoin Colfer
Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer is best known for his Artemis Fowl series about a boy criminal mastermind who goes on a quest to find the fairy world, but he has other books in his name as well, some of which are similar to Onjali Rauf. Illegal, a 2017 graphic novel he wrote in collaboration with Andrew Donkin, tops that list. This story tells of a boy’s journey across Africa to Europe, and the illustrations make the story real in the minds of young readers.

This Irish author attended Dublin University, where he earned a degree in education. Colfer traveled extensively in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Italy, and these locations became the basis for Benny and Omar, his first book, published in 1998. Artemis Fowl came to be in 2001, and the first book has sold over 25 million copies in 40 languages. The series has eight books in total and several companion books.

“My name is Ebo. I’m twelve years old. We’ve only been at sea for three hours, but I think he might be right.”

Eoin Colfer, Illegal
Sale
Illegal: A Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover Book
  • Colfer, Eoin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 08/07/2018 (Publication Date) - Sourcebooks Young Readers (Publisher)

2. Steve Tasane

Book cover of Child I by Steve Tasane
Book cover of Child I by Steve Tasane

The child of a refugee, Steve Tasane, is the author of Child I. He also worked as a performance poet and was the writer-in-residence at the Dickens Bicentennial Celebration. Child I, which he published in 2018, pulls from Tasane’s fathers’ experiences and tells the story of a group of undocumented children who have letters instead of names.

They want their stories to be told, but they have no papers to write on or records to back them up. The children live in a refugee camp, and though the work is fiction, it opens the eyes of modern children to the day-to-day challenges of life as a refugee. Tasane also wrote Blood Donors and Nobody Saw No One, published in 2013 and 2015. You might be interested in exploring children’s books, such as these best Dr. Seuss books.

“I will use the quill and the berry juice and the leaves to make Life Books for us all.”

Steve Tasane, Child I
Child I
  • Steve Tasane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 05/03/2018 (Publication Date) - Faber & Faber (Publisher)

3. Zana Fraillon, 1981 –

Book cover of The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
Book cover of The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Zana Fraillon is an Australian author who writes children’s books and young adult novels. Born in Melbourne, Fraillon spent some of her childhood in San Francisco and a year teaching in China, so she has traveled quite a bit. Her 2016 book, The Bone Sparrow, spoke on the plight of the people of Rohingya. It won the 2017 Amnesty CLIP Honor for shedding light on human rights issues. It won several other awards, including the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children and Readings Young Adult Book Prize 2017. The book has since become a stage play, which premiered in the UK in 2022.

“To those who refuse to be blinded by the glare, or deafened by the hush, who are brave enough to question, and curious enough to explore. To those who will not forget. You will make a difference. And to the rest of us, so that we may learn how.”

Zana Fraillon, The Bone Sparrow
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The Bone Sparrow
  • Hardcover Book
  • Fraillon, Zana (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 11/01/2016 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

4. Linda Sue Park, 1960 –

Linda Sue Park
Linda Sue Park

Korean-American author Linda Sue Park is responsible for the Newbery Medal-winning novel A Single Shard. Published in 2001, the book tells of Tree-ear, an orphan living under a bridge in 12th-century Korea who decides to learn the art of pottery. The carefully written novel shows the resilience of the young boy along with the challenges of life in Korea in ancient times.

Most of Park’s works are historical fiction focusing on Korean culture. Another famous work Is When My Name Was Keoko, her 2002 novel set in Korea just after World War II when Japan took over the country. It won the School Library Journal’s Best Book of the Year accolade. Park started her writing career early when she published a poem in Trailblazer magazine at nine, and she continues to add new works as an adult.

“If a man is keeping an idea to himself, and that idea is taken by stealth or trickery-I say it is stealing. But once a man has revealed his idea to others, it is no longer his alone. It belongs to the world.”

 Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard
A Single Shard
  • Park, Linda Sue (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 02/11/2003 (Publication Date) - Yearling (Publisher)

5. Katherine Rundell, 1987 –

Book cover of Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Book cover of Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell is an English author from Kent who wrote Rooftoppers, a 2013 novel that won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story. A fellow of All Souls College and a graduate of the University of Oxford, Rundell spent ten years in Zimbabwe when she was a child, then lived in Belgium for a while. These experiences sparked her first book, The Girl Savage, published in 2011. It told the story of a Zimbabwe girl sent to England for school. 

Rooftoppers was her second book, and it tells of a young girl who is orphaned and lives on the rooftops of Paris to avoid being sent to an orphanage. If you like reading children’s books, you might also enjoy our list of the best books by Roald Dahl.

“Perhaps, she thought, that’s what love does. It’s not there to make you feel special. It’s to make you brave. It was like a ration pack in the desert, she thought, like a box of matches in a dark wood. Love and courage, thought Sophie—two words for the same thing.”

Katherine Rundell, Rooftoppers
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Rooftoppers
  • Rundell, Katherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 03/07/2013 (Publication Date) - Faber & Faber Children’s (Publisher)

6. Catherine Bruton

Book cover of No Ballet Shoes In Syria by Catherine Bruton
Book cover of No Ballet Shoes In Syria by Catherine Bruton

Catherine Bruton has many awards to her name, but her book No Ballet Shoes in Syria has the most, including the Books Are My Bag Readers’ Award in 2020, The Middle East Book Award, and the Sheffield Book Award. Bruton studied English at Oxford before becoming a teacher in Africa. With little entertainment in Africa, she turned to writing stories about the children she was teaching and the new culture that surrounded her. After that, she returned to England and started teaching in her home country while publishing books.

Many of Bruton’s books, including Another Twist in the Tale and Following Frankenstein, explore what could have happened to secondary characters from classic tales. We Can Be Heroes, nominated for the Carnegie Medal, was her first book, published in 2011. It tells a funny but tense story about the children of those who died in the 9/11 attacks. This book was made into a successful feature film.

“Mrs Massoud was always crying – for her son who had been taken by government troops in Damascus, and for her daughter, who had been killed by the bombs shortly after. She told Aya that a mother’s fountain of tears flows forever.”

Catherine Bruton, No Ballet Shoes in Syria
No Ballet Shoes in Syria
  • Bruton Catherine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 04/27/2019 (Publication Date) - NOSY (Publisher)

7. Nizrana Farook

Book cover of The Boy Who Met A Whale by Nizrana Farook
Book cover of The Boy Who Met A Whale by Nizrana Farook

Nizrana Farook was born in Sri Lanka. In her books, she often writes about the people and places of her childhood. The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, her 2020 debut novel, tells the story of an outspoken, rebellious girl who steals from the king and her noble family to give to the poor. After landing in jail, she makes a daring escape and the most significant theft of her life. One of her more recent novels, published in 2023, The Boy Who Met a Whale, takes readers on an adventure on the ocean.

“The boy held on to the side for balance and stumbled into the cabin. The captain was lying in his bunk, fast asleep. The room had been ransacked.”

Nizrana Farook, The Boy Who Met a Whale
The Boy Who Met a Whale
  • Farook, Nizrana (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 03/14/2023 (Publication Date) - Peachtree (Publisher)

8. Kiran Milwood Hargrave, 1990 –

Book cover of The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Milwood Hargrave
Book cover of The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Milwood Hargrave

Kiran Millwood Hargrove is a Cambridge University and Oxford University graduate who has become a successful author. Hargrove started writing in 2009, publishing her first novel, The Girl of Ink and Stars, in 2016. It was purchased in a six-figure deal that included a sequel. It won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year in 2017. The book remains on the bestseller list in the UK. Its sequel, The Island at the End of Everything, came out in 2017. In 2019, Hargrave released her first young adult novel, The Deathless Girls, and in 2020 entered the adult novel world with The Mercies, which became an instant bestseller.

“India is a place where colour is doubly bright. Pinks that scald your eyes, blues you could drown in.”

Kiran Milwood Hargrave, The Girl of Ink and Stars
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The Girl of Ink & Stars
  • Millwood Hargrave, Kiran (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 05/05/2016 (Publication Date) - Chicken House (Publisher)

9. Lisa Thompson, 1973 –

Book cover of The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Book cover of The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

A native of England, Lisa Thompson left school at 16. Eventually, the young woman found work in the insurance field, then with the BBC. This led to working as a freelance radio broadcast assistant with another company. In 2017 she published The Goldfish Boy, her first book. The book tells the story of Matthew, a boy shut inside his home due to struggling with OCD. The book was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. One year later, she published The Light Jar and became a skilled writer. Thompson’s books tell stories of children dealing with real-life problems in a poignant and heartwarming way.

“I think we could be good friends if you just saw me for the person I am, not the person you think I am.”

Lisa Thompson, The Goldfish Boy
The Goldfish Boy
  • Hardcover Book
  • Thompson, Lisa (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 02/28/2017 (Publication Date) - Scholastic Press (Publisher)

10. Ross MacKenzie, 1981 –

Book cover of The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie
Book cover of The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie

The author of The Nowhere Emporium, Ross MacKenzie, hails from Scotland. The winner of the Scottish Children’s Book Award for his debut novel Zac and the Dream Pirates, which he published in 2010. MacKenzie quickly followed it with Zac and the Dream Stealers. In 2016 he published The Nowhere Emporium, and the book won the Scottish Children’s Book Award, Blue Peter Best Story Award, and the North East Book Award. It tells of an orphan named Daniel Holmes who stumbles upon the Nowhere Emporium, a shop with mysterious rooms and passageways that take him through time and space.

“The shop from nowhere arrived with the dawn on a crisp November morning. Word travelled quickly around the village, and by midday, the place was abuzz with rumor and hearsay.”

Ross MacKenzie, The Nowhere Emporium
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The Nowhere Emporium
  • MacKenzie, Ross (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 05/15/2015 (Publication Date) - Kelpies (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best San and Jan Berenstain books!

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.