Ha is growing up in Vietnam in 1975. Her father went off to war and there's been no news from him since. As Saigon falls, the family decides to leave on a boat with thousands of other refugees. They end up in Alabama where each member of the family works to adjust.
This was a book fair book that I wasn't excited about reading, but felt I needed to so I could talk about it at the fair. I fell in love! In fact, the more I thought about the book after I finished it, the more I loved it. The story is told in verse from Ha's perspective. She talks about life in Vietnam, discrimination in America, segregation, family, the difficulties of learning English, and adjusting to her new how in beautiful, relate-able ways.
There are SO many ways a classroom teacher could use this book to talk about history (Vietnam War, segregation in the South), about faith (Ha's family is baptized so the neighbors will stop harassing them), about English language learners (as Ha's peers applaud her for reciting the numbers 1 to 20 in English, she recalls that she was doing fractions in Vietnam and says how tired she is of feeling dumb). Students can compare and contrast Ha's teacher and her tutor, the bullies and her friends. English teachers can explore how Ha's story is told so well in so few words.
By the time I finished listing all the ways teachers could use this story in the classroom at my teacher preview event for the bookfair, I was down to only one copy of the book to show students.
My students who have read the book have reported really enjoying the story, too.
5 out of 5 stars
AR reading level of 4.8