Her family is suspicious of his. His family is hostile toward hers. Restaurant rivalry or something more?
When their paths cross in the high school newspaper room, neighbors Bao and Linh actually talk to each other instead of turning away.
After years as a just-average student, Bao might finally have found something he’s good at: writing date-night restaurant reviews. Gifted painter Linh sketches each dining venue, showcasing the talent that her parents dismiss as a hobby.
They begin enjoying time together (far away from Little Saigon‘s gossip) and wonder about the feud that’s separated their families so long – did it start with their competing pho restaurants here in California or back in Vietnam?
Evie and Linh’s aunt is a successful artist in Vietnam – why do their parents keep insisting that Di Vang is miserable?
The chance to paint a stunning restaurant’s mural is a dream for Linh, as long as her parents never know about it… or Bao.
If Allison (his editor & her best friend) is right about theirs as a Romeo & Juliet story, how can there be a happy ending?
Bao and Linh recount A Pho Love Story to us in alternating chapters – just published this week!
The ideal path to ‘happily ever after’ – smooth or bumpy? **kmm
Book info: A Pho Love Story / Loan Le. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. [author Twitter] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Try something new? Stay quiet as a mouse? Show his true self to the world? Better choose well…
Rob is utterly smitten with the new girl in his class and too tongue-tied to even say hello. Easier to play chess with his grandfather every afternoon at the old folks’ home.
But when text messages from an unknown number challenge the 13 year old to get out of his comfort zone if he wants to succeed, Rob enters his Australian town’s youth talent show, even though public speaking gives him panic attacks.
Inspired by another text, non-sporty Rob tries out for the soccer team because Destry likes athletes – and makes the team as goalie! (but no changing in the locker room…)
Publically protesting the environmental damages of meat production gets Rob featured in the newspaper, as one text challenged, and also sent to the principal’s office for the very first time.
Bad at math, he can count on best pal Andrew and sailor-mouthed grandad.
Great in English, Rob struggles to write the perfect poem for Destry!
Will the Vietnam War ghosts ever stop tormenting his grandad? When will Daniel stop bullying Rob?
As the mysterious texts continue, Rob moves slowly off his path of comforting routines and begins to find himself, despite how others see him.
What challenge would you like to see in your inbox? **kmm
Book info: A Song Only I Can Hear / Barry Jonsberg. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020 (USA). [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
From refugee camp to Uncle’s home in Texas in 1981, another step nearer to the address where Linh was taken.
LeeRoy, all done with school and being a city fella, is heading up to the Panhandle to meet his favorite bronc rider and work in rodeos. Helping this teenage gal get to Amarillo won’t take much time, will it?
But the address is now a vacant lot! A neighbor’s information sends LeeRoy and Hang out toward Palo Duro Canyon to find her brother, now called David.
Hang is determined to speak English well enough to tell David every memory of their family, as she and LeeRoy work on the dusty ranch near David’s new home, trying to wrestle thorny mesquite trees from the rocky earth with her brother in his summer before sixth grade.
Amarillo means “yellow” but the dirt there is red and orange, not like the tropical green fruit trees and vines of Vietnam.
Hang is sad that David cannot recall their childhood together, Uncle wants to take David from the new mother who loves him, and LeeRoy isn’t sure whether to stay on the ranch or follow his rodeo dreams.
As refugees flee from danger and desperate situations, how can we help them? **kmm
Book info: Butterfly Yellow / Thanhha Lai. Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Looking forward to a new year, looking back over the past – writers and artists do this, too!
You’ll recognize so many of your favorite authors and illustrators of works for kids and young adults in the “About the Author” section at the publisher’s webpage for this book!
So think about the stories you wrote in earlier years, the comic strips you drew, the plays that you put on for your family, the news reports that you made as a kid.
A new year, new opportunities, what will you begin? **kmm
Book info: Our Story Begins: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids / edited by Elissa Brent Weissman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [editor site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: “When did you start drawing? When did you know that you wanted to write books?” These frequent questions from young readers are answered by 25 of our favorite authors and illustrators – with examples of their very early works – in this anthology which will inspire a new generation of creators.
A grade-school photo from each author and illustrator begins their chapter which includes reproductions of their childhood stories or drawings in crayon, pencil, pen, or typing.
There’s a photo of author Elissa Brent Weissman as a kid with Gordon Korman at his book signing, then turn to Korman’s chapter to read his fifth-grade speech “How to Handle Your Parents”.
Kwame Alexander’s mom still has his first-ever poem (to her on Mother’s Day) framed in her living room. Thanhha Lai and her family fled Vietnam during her childhood, but she can still recite the story-poem “A Bird in a Cage” that she told her mother over and over.
Illustrators’ talents as kids ranged from polished (Grace Lin) to rudimentary (Jarrett J. Krosoczka – graphic novels), and several authors say that they copied their favorite writers’ styles in early stories – all continued to work at their craft and work to be published.
My book talk: Dreams of being with handsome Billy are fruitless; dreams of making her living as an artist get Vân Ước through tough days. But the Vietnamese Australian teen may have a chance at both, if the guest creative writing teacher is right!
The transition from her Sydney immigrant neighborhood where she shares strong coffee with her lesbian-in-waiting best friend to the private school where she’s a scholarship student is jarring, as is Billy’s transformation from popular prankster to nice guy in their International Baccalaureate classes.
When a tiny bottle marked ‘wish’ just vanishes into her skin during a creative writing seminar, odd things begin to happen to Vân Ước – like Billy really paying attention to her – in a good way!
Will she be able to magically change her parents’ expectations for her future?
Can Mama’s depression be cured, years after that traumatic journey from Vietnam?
What would Jane Austen do in all these strange, changed situations?
Her name means ‘cloudwish’ – and maybe, just maybe, her dearest wishes and dreams could come true.
In the early 1970s reporter Daniel Ellsberg tracks down secrets about the USA’s involvement in the Vietnam War, risking his own life and liberty to disclose government disinformation to the American public.
How can listening to stories beyond the mainstream help you understand more?
If the communists find them – dishonor and death.
If the soldiers search the boat for refugees – death by drowning.
If they don’t get out of the refugee camp soon – death by despair?
Mai must obey her parents when they send her with uncle Hiep to escape the Vietnamese communists, but how will a sheltered teen schoolgirl survive the terrible trip across the gulf, packed like salted fish in the creaking boat’s hold, or the primitive conditions in the refugee camp?
Forty years after the US military left as Saigon fell to communist forces, so many stories need to be told and remembered.
Did Vietnamese refugees settle in your community?
Book info: Out of the Dragon’s Mouth / Joyce Burns Zeiss. Flux Books, 2015. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
My book talk: Fleeing Vietnam after communist takeover, 14 year old Mai and her just-older uncle Hiep must survive the rough crossing to refugee camp before they have any hope of reaching their relatives in America, but living in the camp becomes an ordeal, too.
When Mai’s brother fell ill, the teen daughter of Chinese business family had to take his place with Hiep – the bribes were paid, and the Communist forces were searching too near their hiding place.
Fortunately, Small Auntie would be waiting for them at the Malaysian island camp; unfortunately, her nickname described her temper as well as her height. She demanded that Mai and Hiep pay to stay with the family in shelter of a small boat, even though the Red Cross provides food for all.
Every day, they listen for their names to be called so they may leave for their uncle’s home in America. Days turn to weeks – Small Auntie casts them out because they have no money left.
Weeks turn to months as Mai and Hiep live under a tarp tent with other young people whose parents didn’t make it to camp. Lan and her sister Ngoc teach Mai to knit – Chicago is very cold, says Uncle. Kien of the blue eyes tells her about his American soldier father who tried to get him and his mother out of Saigon as US forces departed.
The slim gold bracelet that Mother sewed into Mai’s clothing seems to be running out, as accidents and disease touch the camp. Will Mai and Hiep ever get to America?
As the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon nears, this refugee tale is both a moment in history and a reflection of realities still faced by too many. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
Little-boy games turn into young men’s worries.
How can war injure someone without leaving a scratch or bruise?
Can history be right and current events still be terribly wrong?
Joel’s childhood memories – playing soldiers with his pals, cheering for the Brooklyn Dodgers to finally win before they move to LA, those blue numbers tattooed on the bakery lady’s wrist – form the backdrop to his anguished dilemma as his draft number comes up in the early days of the Vietnam War.
Noted nonfiction author and researcher Mark Kurlansky takes readers on a young man’s emotional journey in a work of fiction that rings truer than many biographies.
Look for Battle Fatigue at your local library or independent bookseller to discover where Joel lands.
My Recommendation: Joel knows he’ll grow up and go to war to keep America free, like his dad and uncle did. But when a teen neighbor returns from Vietnam physically unharmed and mentally shattered, he begins to question whether every war is right.
Born on the 7th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, grandson of European refugees, Joel Bloom plays kids’ games with his pals and the souvenirs that their dads brought back from WWII. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he and his junior high classmates practice diving under their desks for A-bomb drills (sometimes a chance to hold hands with sweet Kathy). He tries to teach a German exchange student how to act more American, but local memories of relatives lost in the Holocaust prove stronger than Karl’s willingness to be shunned. How odd that Karl’s only friend in Haley is the first Jew he’s ever met.
In November 1963, Joel turns to his diary as he tries to make sense of JFK’s assassination. High school means varsity baseball, a newfound love of chemistry, and afterschool fights that someone else starts; even his little brother gets challenged to fights because Joel never loses. Everything changes when President Johnson announces on TV that the USA is now fighting in Southeast Asia… and Joel realizes that he and his pals will fight and die in this war.
Dickie from next door enlists in the Marines and leaves for the war proud and tall, returning broken and haunted. College will keep Joel from being sent to Vietnam for four years… but will it be long enough? He doesn’t want to go – not because he’s afraid, but because it’s not right. Will he become a Conscientious Objector or enlist anyway or head to Canada? Big questions from a troubled time in our nation’s history and one young man’s attempt to answer them for himself. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. We rarely remember its 1868 origins as a remembrance of those who have died protecting our nation and our freedoms.
As her summer begins, 12 year old Tracy thinks it’ll be like most summers, but what she and pal Stargazer uncover changes everything she thought she knew about herself and her adoptive family.
The Vietnam War era was chaotic and divisive for countless families on both sides of the Pacific, with many questions and no simple solutions. Perhaps a few answers will shine through for Tracy after all…
Book info: Dogtag Summer / Elizabeth Partridge. Bloomsbury, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Recommendation: During the summer before 8th grade, Tracy starts having flashbacks to her childhood in Vietnam. Her adoptive parents have pictures of her arrival in the USA as a tiny 6 year old in 1975, but before that time, she has only an empty place inside her memories. As she and her friend Stargazer search in her garage, they find an ammo box and Army dogtags.
Now she dreams of her mother being away at DaNang as a laundry worker for the Americans, her uncle gone as a Viet Cong soldier, soldiers from both sides searching her grandmother’s hut in the jungle, families divided by war. How can she ask her adoptive father about the dogtags with another man’s name when he never talks about being in Vietnam?
As a Vietnamese-American, she was shunned by village neighbors and is taunted by California classmates. Sometimes, things are too quiet at her house now, but Stargazer’s easy-going parents accept her and welcome her to their place in the forest. When his peace-loving father sees the dogtags and calls the US soldiers in Vietnam “babykillers,” Tracy knows that she will have to be brave enough to ask her Dad about the past, about the dogtags, about why she came to this family in the US instead of another.
A story from the heart to go with the history book facts, readers will walk and dream with Tracy through that dogtag summer, through the questions and answers to better understanding of a difficult chapter in America’s history. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)
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