Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? This is the true story of Van Ho, a young girl who stays behind in Vietnam with her grandmother when her family immigrates to Canada to escape Communism. The first-person narrative should hold readers riveted, as Van describes her four-year-old self waking up that first morning, not knowing that her mother and siblings were gone. We follow Van’s life for the next four years, working for her stern aunt and uncle, finding a best friend, and navigating school bullies. When Van and her grandmother finally begin their journey to join the rest of the family, readers will feel both their anxiety and their happiness. While her parents’ actions may seem heartless at first, the book includes interviews with both of Van’s parents which provide a well-balanced look at why they made the choices they did. They clearly suffered too, with their family split apart. The importance of family shines through this compelling memoir, and a series of color photographs adds to the emotional impact.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I liked everything about this book.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read Alikes? Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. In addition, they will want to seek out Adrift at Sea, a picture book by co-author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch which tells the story of Van’s older brother, Tuan.
Who should buy this book? Elementary schools and public libraries should purchase this book.
Where would you shelve it? I would probably shelve it in non-fiction section with the books on the Vietnam War, since this book takes place in its immediate aftermath.
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA
Date of review: November 20, 2018