Inspired by a true story, this is an intimate, moving portrait of a childhood devastated by the war in Vietnam.
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The title of Breckler's (Hoang Breaks the Lucky Teapot) poignant, plaintive tale refers to the fruit that the narrator's grandfather, an herb doctor in their Vietnamese village, uses to flavor his bitter remedies. The kindly patriarch looks after the narrator, her younger brother and mother after her father goes off to fight in the war. For a long time they hear rumbling and crackling in the distance, until one night the war finally reaches their village, seemingly consuming it in flames. In the morning the residents face a frightening, apocalyptic scene, as they crawl out into a "black world" in which no birds sing, the bamboo trees have disappeared and the rice fields are ashes. "We all wept," says the despondent girl. Her ailing grandfather helps the ill villagers but saves no medicine for himself; he "fell asleep forever." As the remaining members of her family surreptitiously depart their devastated village and leave Vietnam by boat, the girl vows "Someday... I will find a way back." Like the combination of her grandfather's herbs and apples, the ending is bittersweet; and the story is far more sad than hopeful. Ray's (My Prairie Year) haunting art dramatically yet convincingly interprets the climactic changes such tragic conflict brings. Sensitively dealing with a setting and subject few picture books touch, this is a worthy addition to any public or school library. Ages 5-8.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 3^-5. In this picture book for older readers, a young Vietnamese girl narrates a brief, bittersweet tale of a village childhood during the final stages of the Vietnam conflict. When Ba leaves to go to war, schoolteacher Ma and her little daughter and son are soon joined by their grandfather, kindly, wise Ong-Noi, the village herb doctor. As the children draw closer to their father's father, even helping him in his traditional occupation, the war draws ever nearer, until one night the sky becomes "bright with fire," and the family cowers in hiding. The next morning the children "crawl out to a black world," their village destroyed, their grandfather dead, and their lives forever changed. Luminous and beautiful watercolor illustrations, many of them double-page spreads, move from the vivid greens and golds of the lush Vietnamese forests to a darker palette for scenes of warfare, destruction, and exile, all depicted with restraint and producing a vivid sense of place. Although weakened by the absence of any historical notes for young readers and occasional stilted dialogue, this is still a worthwhile book giving a child's-eye view of a lost homeland and a lost war. Try this with Sherry Garland's more poetic The Lotus Seed (1993). Jean Franklin
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX039573570X
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Deborah Kogan Ray (illustrator). book. Bookseller Inventory # M039573570X
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P11039573570X
Book Description Houghton Mifflin. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 039573570X New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1816845