Anh Do's inspiring story which highlights patience, humour and the human quality of being grateful was an absolute must for My Book Corner.
Before turning to The Little Refugee I first devoured The Happiest Refugee, Anh Do's best-selling memoir for an adult audience, and the basis for the this picture book. I was pleased that certain, important information wasn't left out and I was interested to see how Anh and Suzanne Do were going to present it.
Leaving war torn Vietnam, encountering pirates and only just surviving the perilous journey to Australia are all included in this great picture book, and to me it was essential that they were there.
This is a picture book that will open up their world, from the descriptions of Vietnam,
"It's a crazy place - strange food, snakes in bottles,
five people squashed onto the back of one little motorbike!"
.. to the manner in which Anh Do's family stood up to the villainous pirates who boarded their boat mid way to Australia,
"All the scared, hungry people on our boat stood up
ready to fight these pirates to save the baby's life."
As Anh Do and his family settle in Australia, find their way, make friends, and learn the new, strange language the message throughout is the echo of his mum's optimistic and grateful outlook,
"Mum said, 'We are so lucky to be alive and living in this
beautiful country. There are many people much worse off
than us.' "
The accompanying illustrations by Bruce Whately are truly inspiring. The detail and the facial expressions are all so evocative of the mood and tone on each page. From the fear etched on the family's faces as the pirates boarded their boat, to the sheer joy and elation of mum and dad as they cheer and clap for Anh when he is made School Captain. Both extremes of emotions are expertly brought to life through the talent of Bruce Whatley.
The Little Refugee tells the story of a family who battled against the odds, and whilst doing so remained strong and supportive of each other. This is a book that educates, opens eyes and helps to remind us what life is truly about.
The Little Refugee made the short list for the CBCA Awards, 2012. Check out the other nominees here. It has also won the 2012 Australian Speech Pathology's Book of the Year: Lower Primary
Notes for teachers can be found on Allen & Unwin's website.
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