January 5, 2018

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:38 pm by suebe2

A Different Pond
by Bao Phi
illustrated by Thi Bui
Capstone Young Readers

The sky is still dark when a young boy is awakened by his father.  Together they leave the leave home and head to the bait store, open even though the stars still twinkle in the sky.  The only time to fish is before Dad has to go to work – he’s working two jobs now.

At the pond, they are the only ones there although sometimes other fishermen join them.  Dad sets up their fishing gear.  The boy gathers small sticks for a small camp fire.  While Dad fishes he talks about fishing with his brother when he was a boy.  Sometimes Dad tells about fighting in the war in Vietnam, side-by-side with his brother, but not this time.  And then their bobber dips.

The boy guides the fish on the line, a crappie, into the bucket.  Dad is happy because tonight the family will have a good dinner. As they leave, the boy looks at the trees and wonders what the trees look like around the pond back in Vietnam.

The sun is up by the time they get home.  Time for Mom and Dad to go to work.  The boy thinks about everyone gathered around the table for dinner, laughing and telling stories as they share the fish he helped catch.

Bao Phi has woven together a story of family and working together, of continuity even in the face of change.  Although this is the story of an immigrant family in the 1970s, it is also a story of immigrant families today.  It is a story of hard work, devotion, longing, love, and strength.

That strength is depicted in the bold lines of Thi Bui’s illustrations.  Her art work is reminiscent of the panels of a graphic novel and she shows the night world in bold black lines and strong blues and browns.

This is a heartfelt thought-provoking story that is sure to prompt discussions among young readers and the adults who shape them.



Stolen Words by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:42 am by suebe2

Stolen Words
by Melanie Florence
illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Second Story Press

A little girl is walking home from school with her grandpa when she asks him how to say grandfather in Cree. For several seconds he freezes and then he tells her the story of the boarding schools.  The government took him to live at a school away from his family. They punished children for saying words in their own languages.  Because of this, the children lost their words.  He no longer remembers how to say anything in Cree.

The next day the little girl comes out of school and pulled a small, battered book from her pack.  Introduction to Cree.  

Together they sound out words.  She tells him that her teacher helped her find this book so that she could share it with him.  So that together they could rediscover his beautiful words.

This is one of the sweetest books that I’ve read in a long time.  But not overly sweet.  The story of the boarding schools is harsh and bitter.  It is balanced with the innocence and love that this girl feels.  It is also balanced by contrasting his school experience with hers where she makes a dream catcher at school and brings home a book full of Cree words.

Gabrielle Grimard’s art work helps bring the story to life.  Rich colors depict this girl with raven wing hair and show the life and vibrancy that still exist.  Depictions of past events are created in washed out, weaker colors telling the reader without words that the past may impact the present but clearly this bright little girl is stronger than the heartless past.

This book was written for ages 6 to 9.  Although the boarding school reality is frightening, this retelling is age appropriate. The grandfather’s recollections will form a skeleton on which to hang additional facts at a later date.  Use this book as a jumping off point for discussions in Native Rights, language and culture, and even immigration.

A must read for any diverse classroom.



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