Award-Winning Books Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes Writing Home: Hues of Diaspora in Literature

[Nonfiction Wednesday] An Uplifting Refugee Story in Anh and Suzanne Do’s “The Little Refugee”


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

We have just recently launched our reading theme on diaspora literature, and I thought it would be good to start with something inspiring and uplifting.

The Little Refugee

Written by: Anh Do and Suzanne Do Illustrated by: Bruce Whatley
Published by: Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN-10: 1742378323 (ISBN13: 9781742378329) Literary Award: Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Children’s & YA (2012)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I didn’t know about Anh Do until an Aussie librarian friend recommended this picturebook to me a year ago. Apparently, Anh Do is a famous Australian comedian and was a Vietnamese refugee. This is a picturebook adaptation of his best-selling memoir for adults, entitled The Happiest Refugee.

I really like how the first page establishes that sense of place. While I have not been to Vietnam, Bruce Whatley’s art takes me right there with just this image above. The authors didn’t provide lengthy details concerning the war – they simply established that there was one going on and that their lives were in danger, which necessitated their escape to a different country.

Anh Do did share their scary encounters with pirates that nearly caused the death of his brother, and how they were eventually rescued by a German ship. The image seen below also conveys that sense of fear and helplessness as the reader is forced to face this man’s threatening stare and the fact that he is armed to the teeth:

When Anh Do’s family arrived in Australia – there is also a sharing of how it was not all smooth-sailing, especially given how they were robbed of their livelihood (their sewing machines were stolen) and how he struggled in school because he does not speak the language. Yet, throughout all this, Anh Do manages to always share something positive from the experience that kind of balances out the negativity – and this is done very naturally rather than in a contrived, preachy kind of way.

Most of the picturebooks depicting refugees tend to be somber and depressing, which is perfectly understandable. This particular book did begin with a few of those heavy-going moments that depict the brutal realities that refugees face as they move from one place to another. However, its overall feel is lighter and generally more hopeful. The authors are also donating 100 percent of their profits from the sale of this book to the Loreto Vietnam-Australia Program started by a Loreto nun, Sister Trish Franklin.

I also found this youtube clip of Anh Do speaking about how it was like for him, arriving as a Vietnamese refugee in Australia when he was a child. I hope you enjoy it!

1 comment on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] An Uplifting Refugee Story in Anh and Suzanne Do’s “The Little Refugee”

  1. What a fascinating story! The contrasting art styles is really interesting, and really adds to the story.


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