When this book came in, I started flipping through it at my desk because the topic reminded me of a Laotian refugee who was in my class when I was in 2nd grade. I had to give up my lunch hour to keep reading because I couldn’t put the book down once I started. Tuyet’s story is so amazing. It beings in a crowded Saigon orphanage in April 1975, where Tuyet was one of the older children who had lived at the orphanage her entire life. She helped care for the little ones and put up with bullies and got along as well as she could despite her leg that was damaged by polio. On April 11, something scary and amazing happened. The babies from the orphanage were placed in cardboard boxes and put in a car, and Tuyet was called to go along with them. She did not know where she was going or why. American soldiers then packed all the babies into a huge airplane. Tuyet did not think she would be going in, too, but then a woman carried her to the plane that she said would take her away from the war to safety. Significantly, this Hercules plane was the last Canadian “babylift” to leave Saigon with refugees. And this is just the beginning of Tuyet’s adventure, full of frightening new things and sounds, language she did not understand, and little to comfort her. Luckily, Tuyet was adopted into a loving family and given a new chance in life.
Readers should also definitely check out Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, another excellent refugee story that won the National Book Award in 2011, and A Step from Heaven by An Na, winner of the 2001 Printz award.
-Reviewed by Jennifer