One word: WOW. That is all. Need more? This book has gotten a lot of press. I was afraid it would be preachy or sappy. It is not. Yes, there is emotion. But it is not forcing you to feel a particular emotion. The author just wants to tell a story. While based on his own experiences, it is fiction. The afterwards from the author and illustrator (more on her later) elaborate on the historical context. I know some of it, but as I was a baby/young child, I was unable to experience it firsthand in an active adult manner.
The amazing text of Bao Phi is compliment by the illustrations of Thi Bui. My favorite part is how text and illustrations both tell the story. The dark colors are deeply rich. They show how early it is then lighten as you go along. The calendar saying 1982 sets the time-frame without a long speech of when it is set. One of the brothers clothing also is a great time-marker. There are hidden gems all over: the boy’s face touching the fish, the no trespassing sign hidden in the bushes, the fathers smile. Take the time to read them, too.
The book about an immigrant family set right after the Vietnam War. Immigration continues today from other countries for the same reason. War. And the results are the same, too. Many blamed the Vietnamese people for the war and the aftereffects of it. This is proof history repeats itself. This book is a powerful story of family, love, and sacrifices first and foremost. Yet, there is the under-story as well. I had “feels” over this book for the main story. It is fitting I found it on Valentine’s Day, though it has been out for a while. One word: Beautiful.