Vietnamese Refugees Tell Their Stories


A few years ago, after a Vietnamese friend read The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, she talked about this emotionally engaging graphic novel provided openings for conversation about her family's emigration with her teenage children. She saw her family reflected in this graphic novel and talked about how her parents don't talk about this painful time. We both wished then for a similar conversation opener for younger children.

Wishes by Muon Thi Van ilustrated by Victo Ngai is exactly perfect! The story of a family's flight from Viet Nam is told visually in Ngai's luminous, evocative pictures. While the illustrations shares intimate details about the family and their journey the simple, poetic and repetitive text text, consisting only of thirteen wishes, leaves plenty of space for discussion.

Like all great picture books, Wishes speaks to two audiences, an (often) adult reader and a child. The author's note offers the adult reader the personal story behind the book and ends with Van asking the reader to join in wishing for a "kinder, fairer, and more beautiful world." The illustrator's note offers the artist's analysis of the text and an explanation of his choices. Both add to older readers' enjoyment and provide guidance for adults discussing the book with younger children.