A young Vietnamese boy and his family flee Vietnam in search of a better life.
Along with co-author Skrypuch, Vietnamese-Canadian Ho recounts his family’s flight from Vietnam in 1981. At the book’s outset, 6-year-old Ho returns home from school to learn that he, his mother, and his two older sisters will leave Vietnam that very night. Each hour of the Ho family’s flight is fraught with danger. Soldiers shoot at them on the beach when they make a run toward a skiff. Their boat springs a leak, and soon after, the motor dies, leaving 60 passengers adrift in the middle of the sea with little water and food. Throughout the harrowing passage, Ho’s mother is by his side, comforting him. On the sixth day of their four-day journey, an American aircraft carrier spots their boat and offers the Vietnamese passengers refuge. Skrypuch and Ho’s retelling focuses mostly on actions and events with scant attention to the 6-year-old boy’s emotional state. The primary narrative provides little context for readers who are unfamiliar with the Vietnamese refugee crisis, but detailed authors’ notes include history, photographs, and maps. The warm undertones in Deines’ oil paintings evoke tropical Vietnam. However, his soft, slightly out-of-focus images give Ho’s story a dreamlike feel that dampens the danger recounted within the text, according readers a luxury not afforded to Ho and the legions of other refugee children suffering through crisis, then and now.
An adequate introduction to the Vietnamese refugee journey for young readers (Picture book. 7-10)