Butterfly Yellow
by Lai, Thanhha

A Vietnam War refugee in Texas partners with a city boy with rodeo dreams to track down the younger brother she was separated from six years before when he was evacuated by American troops during the waning days of the Vietnam War.

*Starred Review* As she did in the Newbery Honor- and National Book Award-winning Inside Out and Back Again (2011), Lai tells the story of a Vietnamese refugee. Here the girl is 18-year-old Hang, who carries several secrets as she makes the perilous journey to family in Texas. One: in the waning days of the war, Hang handed over her five-year-old brother, Linh, at an airlift. Almost immediately, the 11-year-old realized her plan for both of them to be taken, with her unknowing parents to somehow follow, was stupid. Then her father dies, and her mother and grandmother spend the next six years planning to retrieve Linh. But when Hang does find Linh, now David, he has no desire for a relationship. Simultaneously, the story of LeeRoy is told: a well-to-do kid with dreams of becoming a cowboy, he becomes entangled with Hang and her family, forcing him to look outside his narrow desires. Hang's other secret is brilliantly and painfully disclosed, and throughout, the use of the Vietnamese language enhances the reality. There are a few hiccups in the plot that might pull readers out of the story, but Lai's beautiful storytelling quickly draws them back in. Her imagery awakens the senses, whether describing an earthmover as a "parched giraffe made of metal," or depicting the varying sweetness of Vietnamese fruit. Most powerful is the deep throb of regret and the thinnest wisps of hopefulness that Lai conveys throughout. They touch the soul. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

The day after Hằng arrives in Texas from a refugee camp, she heads toward Amarillo to find her little brother. On that same day in 1981, an 18-year-old aspiring cowboy named LeeRoy is traveling to Amarillo to pursue his rodeo dreams. After some helpful meddling from a couple at a rest stop, LeeRoy finds himself driving Hằng on her search instead. They make an odd pair, a white boy from Austin and a determined Vietnamese refugee on a mission. But their chemistry works: Hằng sees through LeeRoy's cowboy airs, and LeeRoy understands Hằng's clever English pronunciations, cobbled together from Vietnamese syllables. When they find Hằng's brother and he remembers nothing about Vietnam, Hằng and LeeRoy settle in at the ranch next door. Hằng's heartbreaking memories of the day her brother was mistakenly taken by Americans at the end of the war, her harrowing journey to America, and the family she left behind are all tempered by LeeRoy's quiet patience and exasperated affection. It is their warm and comic love/hate relationship, developing over the course of the summer into somethin g more, that is the soul of award-winning Lai's (Listen, Slowly, 2015, etc.) first young adult novel. Every sentence is infused with warmth, and Lai shows readers that countless moments of grace exist even in the darkest times. Masterfully conjures grace, beauty, and humor out of the tragic wake of the Vietnam War. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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