From Publisher Description of Last Flight by Kristen Mai Giang: On April 24, 1975 the last flight out of Saigon, Vietnam carried over 400 people to the United States, six days before Saigon’s surrender to the North Vietnamese Army.
I was a few months old in April, therefore, I obviously have no memory of this happening. However, when I learned that the war was still basically going and I was alive for it, it was an eye opener. I had always heard about the Vietnam War or read about it as if it was something that was “a long time ago” or at least it was a 1960s thing and therefore, “real history.” Of course, this was still real history, but history I was living, but unaware of. This was one of the first times I realized how connected the world was, and how short a time things really do happen. Therefore, I have had a small interest in the Vietnam War. But my biggest interest is the people who lived it. Giang based their book on true events, but is a fictionalized account of her family’s escape.
The idea is a young girl is telling the story of her family, which was a large one (six children, two parents), we see the little things they had to do, see, hear to get by. Giang based this girl on her own older sister and they are the younger sister of the story. The fact that not all refugees were “boat people” is interesting. But Giang’s family, and the others that would find themselves on that airplane had similar troubles. The fact we see a small part of the larger picture is amazing. As an adult reading it, I was able to see some similarities to a few people in World War II helping Jewish people escape. But for the at least five and up (content is fine, but concepts might be advanced) group it is just an immigration story and a family story about love and even a little fun adventure. The theme of being afraid, but keep walking (like when she must cross the busy street and her mother tells her to just walk), is a great lesson to teach.
The artwork of Dow Phumuruk is sweet, allowing a serious subject to be accessible and not necessarily welcoming, but not “too much” for a reader. Things are well detailed, well presented, well colored. Overall, well done. Them and the additional information at the end wraps things up in a strong collection able to be adapted to most needs. Though available, I read via an online reader copy and I am going to find finished copies to read again and give/donate to friends, family, and my local libraries.