I was thinking that The Yellow Ao Dai was going to be super sappy. The cover is cute and sweet looking, and the main character is a young child. The subject felt as if it was going to be a “feel good tale.” And it is but all that, but it is more, too. It is a feel-good story, but there is some meat with those potatoes.
We follow a young Vietnamese girl excited to share part of her culture with her class, but her dress for the day is too small. In an attempt to rectify that she tries on her mothers yellow ao dai, accidently ripping it. Hiding it, she only tells her mother what happened when her mother realizes it is missing. Then, our young narrator learns the importance of the dress, as it was not only her grandmothers, but the story behind it. And that her mother has a little secret of her own.
Hanh Bui and Minnie Phan based the story and illustrations on their own families and culture. The art of Phan is not only sweet, but expressive and could be considered its own character, while allowing a platform for our human characters to tell their own adventures.
I am curious about Harvey and the Collection of Impossible Things that Phan has also illustrated (but written by Garret Weyr, as The Yellow Ao Dai is a debut picture book). And I will be keeping Bui on my radar of authors to watch.
(I needed 2 more words to make 250)