Author: Gloria Whelan
Page Length: 135
Reading Level: 4.7
PLOT SUMMARY: Mai and her family live in Vietnam, where the government has been arresting people caught in illegal acts. Mai’s father was even taken away and detained for an entire year. The government is now threatening to take her father away again and her grandmother too. Mai’s family decides that they have no choice but to flee the only life they have ever known. With only a small pack of belongings each, they steal away under the cover of night. They must avoid being captured or detained. Their only hope is a small boat with a failing engine and their dreams of reaching the shores of Hong Kong. Can they make to the boat undetected? Will the boat be able to make the journey? Is there any hope left for Mai and her family?
REVIEW: This is a very powerful story about life as a refugee. I would recommend this one for use as a whole class instruction book. This story would compliment any discussions in history class of refugees, displacement, tyrannical rule, and even immigration in general. Whelan is masterful at keeping the read on the edge of their seat gripped by the emotion of Mai and her family. Their hope seems simple – freedom, but the reality of accomplishing those dreams is much more difficult than any of them have imagined. Great book!
Another interesting teaching point from this book centers on the role of women in the Vietnamese culture.
AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, external conflict, character traits, historical connections
TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Death, substandard conditions
RELATED BOOKS: Summer of the War, Listening for Lions, Friend on Freedom River, Chu Ju’s House, Once on this Island, Farewell to the Island
RELATED MOVIES: “Kim’s Story: The Road from Vietnam,” “Rising Above: Women of Vietnam”
REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor