Paper Boat
by Lam, Thao

A Kirkus Reviews most anticipated picture book of fall 2020 with starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal and the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books — a heartfelt and personal immigration story, new from critically acclaimed author Thao Lam

New from Thao Lam, the award-winning author of picture books My Cat Looks Like My Dad, Wallpaper, and Skunk on a String, comes a personal story inspired by her family's refugee journey.

In The Paper Boat, Thao's signature collage art tells the wordless story of one family's escape from Vietnam-a journey intertwined with an ant colony's parallel narrative.

At her home in Vietnam, a girl rescues ants from the sugar water set out to trap them. Later, when the girl's family flees war-torn Vietnam, ants lead them through the moonlit jungle to the boat that will take them to safety. Before boarding, the girl folds a paper boat from a bun wrapper and drops it into the water, and the ants climb on. Their perilous journey, besieged by punishing weather, predatory birds, and dehydration, before reaching a new beginning, mirrors the family's own.Impressionistic collages and a moving, Own Voices narrative make this a one-of-a-kind tale of courage, resilience, and hope.

*Starred Review* In an Author's Note, Lam (My Cat Looks like My Dad, 2019) likens refugees to ants: migratory, collaborative, adaptable, and resilient. In the brilliant Paper Boat, she captures these shared traits with simplicity and depth, using a limited palette of precise cut-paper collages in sequential panels-and not a single word. The story recalls her mother's escape from the Vietcong after the war as, silent as ants, a girl and her mother hide in the tall grasses until they can board a boat to safety. Before they leave, they fold the paper that contained their meal into a boat and set it on the beach. A small colony of ants climbs in and takes float. The ants' peril at sea mirrors that of human refugees: a blistering sun, predators, turbulent waters, hunger, weather, and loss. Eventually, both ants and people are safe. The author's ability to capture emotions in the expressions and gestures of ants is breathtaking, their fragility and strength evident in downturned antennae and tenacious limbs. Each panel is so detailed that readers will want to linger over them all, admiring Lam's craft even while being immersed in emotions. A tender tribute to the author's parents and to all refugees who survive and thrive despite enormous odds. Grades 1-3. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

A refugee story features distinctive artwork honoring courage, kindness, and memory. A child-centered retelling of one family's escape from Communist-ruled Vietnam, this wordless picture book renders a harrowing experience through clever uses of paper craft. From the outset, a visual motif of ants is key in unfolding the story. Close-up views of a single child are juxtaposed against others of preoccupied adults standing by the same dinner table. No one eats; armored tanks drive past, hastening the family's departure. Mother and child navigate darkness and heart-stopping moments, becoming lost, until ants appear in the moonlight and lead them to a body of water. As they await passage, mother folds a paper sailboat to distract the child. Later, ants board this paper craft and seem to travel for days in a dramatic montage that feels almost quaint until the page turn reveals increasingly hostile conditions, starting with a parching sun. Only some of the ants survive the ensuing sea gull attacks, thunderstorms, and violent waves, crystallizing for viewers of all a ges the perilous journey confronting refugees. When the child's family reappears, they have settled in a racially diverse metropolis and are seated for a sumptuous meal at home. There is much going on, and children will be compelled to return again and again to digest its story. A timely, resonant, exceptional model of visual storytelling; the ironic title is a seaworthy companion to "a wing and a prayer." (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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