Favorite Reads: Vietnam and Vietnamese-Americans

26 04 2012

I put this list together to go along with this month’s reading theme.  This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of titles related to Vietnam or Vietnamese-Americans.  These are just a few titles I’ve read over the years that I would recommend.

Children of the Dragon: Selected Tales from Vietnam by Sherry Garland; illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Six traditional Vietnamese folktales retold and beautifully illustrated.  Elementary

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland; illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi
The titular lotus seed is a symbol of hope for a Vietnamese family that has lived through the turmoil of the war in Vietnam and must now make a new life in America – just as the seed can blossom in a new land, so can they.  Elementary

Why Ducks Sleep on One Leg by Sherry Garland; illustrated by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng
Retelling of a Vietnamese folktale explaining the reason for ducks’ odd behavior of sleeping with one leg on the ground and one tucked beneath a wing.  Elementary

Hello, My Name Is Scrambled Eggs by Jamie Gilson
When Harvey’s family sponsors a Vietnamese family who moves to the United States after the war, he enthusiastically goes about introducing them to American culture, but his efforts don’t always turn out the way he plans.  This middle grade novel exemplifies Gilson’s trademark combination of realism and humor.  Older Elementary

The Trouble Begins by Linda Himelblau
After being separated from his Vietnamese family for most of his life, ten-year-old Du is finally reunited with them in the United States, but he struggles (often in very funny ways) to fit into his new life.  Older Elementary

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
When it becomes clear that the end of the Vietnam War is fast approaching, young Ha and her family must leave behind everything they’ve known in Vietnam, including their father who has disappeared in battle, and start life again in Alabama.  A truly moving story written in verse that won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.  Older Elementary

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules; illustrated by Kathryn Mitter
Tuyet is concerned when she realizes that her Vietnamese-American family will be having duck on Thanksgiving Day rather than the traditional turkey, but she comes to realize that the holiday is about more than just turkey.  Preschool; Early Elementary

When Heaven Fell by Carolyn Marsden
Nine-year-old Binh lives in Vietnam and is very excited to meet her aunt who was adopted during the war by an American family, but when her aunt arrives, Binh is a little disappointed in her American ways.  Older Elementary

Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen
A contemporary novel about the rivalry between two Vietnamese-American sisters and their challenging relationships with their father, set against the backdrop of romantic drama and immigration issues.  Adult

Going Home, Coming Home by Truong Tran; illustrated by Ann Phong
Ami Chi doesn’t understand why both her parents consider Vietnam home since they’ve lived in the United States for so long.  When they take her there to meet her grandmother for the first time, she realizes that it’s like another home to her, too.  Preschool, Elementary


Favorite Reads: Candy

20 06 2011

Who knew that June is National Candy Month?  Why not celebrate by reading the quintessential candy book – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl?

And here are a few other titles to read to celebrate this sweet month!

When Ruby Tried to Grow Candy by Valorie Fisher; illustrated by the author

After climbing the fence into her neighbor’s backyard to retrieve her ball, Ruby Hawthorn discovers the unusual garden planted by the cantankerous Miss Wysterious, who has Ruby plant some candy to see if it will grow.  The illustrations are really fantastic – the characters are drawn in cartoon-style, then set within collage/diorama scenes that are then photographed by the author/illustrator.  Preschool; Early Elementary

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan; illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Rubina is so excited to be invited to a friend’s birthday party, but then her mother makes her take along her little sister, who goes on to spoil the party (resulting in Rubina never being invited to a party again) and then eat  the lollipop from the treat bag that Rubina had been saving for later.  This story is such a perfect depiction of life with siblings, and it does have a “sweet” ending.  Preschool; Early Elementary

Hansel and Gretel retold by James Marshall; illustrated by the author

The Grimm classic about a brother and sister abandoned by their father and stepmother in the forest who encounter a witch living in a house made of candy, cookies, and cake.  Preschool; Early Elementary

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

Four twelve-year-old contestants gather at the Life Is Sweet candy factory to prepare for the Annual New Candy Contest, but they each have a secret that just might jeopardize their entries as well as the candy factory itself.   A great mystery and “sweet” story about friendship as well.  Middle Grade

Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker by Megan McDonald; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

When Stink buys an Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker that does not actually break his jaw, he writes a letter to the candy company.  In return, they send him free candy, so he sets out to write letters to several other companies in hopes of receiving more free stuff, but his plan spirals out of control and even causes a problem with his best friend.  Early Elementary; Middle Grade

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull

When a new candy store opens in town fifth-graders Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon are given magical candy by the owner, but in return they are entangled in a magical war.  A bit on the darker side, this book is a great read for fantasy lovers, especially those who enjoy great action sequences.  Middle Grade

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Jen Corace

In this funny tale that turns the traditional dinnertime battle on its head, poor Little Pea’s parents are forcing him to eat something really disgusting for dinner – candy!  Will Little Pea manage to eat enough candy to receive his mystery dessert?  Preschool; Early Elementary

The Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot” by Michael O. Tunnell

This book tells the true story of Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen, a US Air Force pilot during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49, who began “Operation Little Vittles” to deliver sweet treats to the children of West Berlin.  Along with candy and gum, Halvorsen also gave the children and families of Berlin hope during this dark time, and the connections he and his fellow pilots made were unimaginable and long-reaching.  An inspiring read!  Middle Grade

A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Laura Rankin

More than anything, Isabel wants a balloon on her graduation day, but because she and her classmates are porcupines that’s a bit problematic, so they’ll be receiving bookmarks instead, until Isabel comes up with a “sweet” solution.  Preschool; Early Elementary

Favorite Read Alouds

30 10 2010

My library system coordinates a volunteer program called Read with Me.  (If you’re in the Knoxville area, we’re looking for volunteers!)  Volunteers who participate in this program read to children at local schools in kindergarten through 3rd grade.   Read with Me is a wonderful program, and we’re lucky to have great, dedicated volunteers.  I’ve recently been working on a list of favorite read aloud titles to help these volunteers.  Even librarians like myself who have lots of experience reading to children can use new titles to choose from, right?

So, I started with titles that I like to read to kids this age, then I culled titles from lists online.  Lastly, I sought out the advice of friends and coworkers.  I ended up with a fantastic list of about 70 titles, which I’ve posted below:

Ahlberg, Allan The Pencil
Allard, Harry Miss Nelson Is Missing
Andrews, Julie The Very Fairy Princess
Armour, Peter Stop That Pickle
Aston, Dianna Hutts The Moon over Star
Barrett, Judi Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Bemelmans, Ludwig Madeline
Bloom, Becky Wolf!
Blue, Rose Ron’s Big Mission
Bradby, Marie More Than Anything Else
Bruchac, Joseph The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale
Burton, Virginia Lee Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Cannon, Janell Stellaluna
Creech, Sharon A Fine, Fine School
Cronin, Doreen Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Donaldson, Julie The Gruffalo
Donnio, Sylviane I’d Really Like to Eat  Child
Ernst, Lisa Campbell Stella Louella’s Runaway Book
Fleming, Candace Muncha Muncha Muncha
Ginsburg, Mirra Clay Boy
Hatkoff, Isabella Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
Henkes, Kevin Sheila Rae, the Brave
Hoffman, Mary Amazing Grace
Hong, Lily Toy Two of Everything: A Chinese Folktale
Hopkinson, Deborah Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative…
Howitt, Mary Botham The Spider and the Fly
Isaacs, Anne Swamp Angel
Kasza, Keiko My Lucky Day
Kasza, Keiko Grandpa Toad’s Secrets
Ketteman, Helen Bubba the Cowboy Prince
Ketteman, Helen Luck with Potatoes
Kimmel, Eric A. Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock
Kraus, Robert Leo the Late Bloomer
Larson, Kirby Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
Leaf, Munro The Story of Ferdinand
Lester, Helen Hooway for Wodney Wat
Lester, Helen Score One for the Sloths
Levine, Ellen Henry’s Freedom Box
Long, Melinda How I Became a Pirate
Lovell, Patty Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Martin, Rafe The Rough-Face Girl
Mosel, Arlene Tikki Tikki Tembo
Munsch, Robert The Paper Bag Princess
Munsch, Robert Purple, Green, and Yellow
Munson, Derek Enemy Pie
Nash, Ogden The Tale of Custard the Dragon
Nolen, Jerdine Thunder Rose
Peet, Bill The Whingdingdilly
Reneaux, J.J. Why Alligator Hates Dog
Salley, Coleen Epossumondas
Schachner, Judy Skippyjon Jones
Schwartz, David If You Hopped Like a Frog
Scieszka, Jon The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Sendak, Maurice Where the Wild Things Are
Seuss, Dr. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
Shannon, David A Bad Case of Stripes
Shannon, David No, David
Sharratt, Nick Shark in the Park
Sierra, Judy Wild about Books
Simms, Laura Rotten Teeth
Steptoe, John Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters
Stone, Jon The Monster at the End of This Book
Sweet, Melissa Carmine, a Little More Red
Tankard, Jeremy Grumpy Bird
Turner, Pamela S. Hachiko, the True Story of a Loyal Dog
Viorst, Judith Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Watt, Melanie Chester
Watt, Melanie Scaredy Squirrel
Williams, Vera B. A Chair for My Mother
Zweibel, Alan Our Tree Named Steve

Favorite Reads: Halloween

28 10 2010

This is a completely unscientific compilation of some of my favorite Halloween reads.  Enjoy!

Little L’s Favorite:

Five Little Pumpkins adapted and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Toddler Storytime Favorite:

Peek-a-Boooo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti; illustrated by Stephanie Peterson

Preschool Storytime Favorite:

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams; illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Childhood Favorite:

Popcorn by Frank Asch; illustrated by author

Fun Folktale:

Who Took My Hairy Toe? by Shutta Crum; illustrated by Katya Krenina

Classic Folktale:

Tailypo: A Ghost Story by Joanna Galdone; illustrated by Paul Galdone

Favorite Ghost Story Collector:

Daniel Cohen (multiple titles)

Classic Chapter Book:

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe; illustrated by Alan Daniel

New Chapter Book Favorite:

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein

Great Recent Read:

The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson

Classic Story Collection:

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adapted by Alvin Schwartz; illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Story Collection for the Older Crowd:

Vacations from Hell by various YA authors

Classic Teen Favorite:

Chain Letter by Christopher Pike

Contemporary Teen Favorite:

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Reading As a New Mama

17 06 2010

Since the birth of Little L the amount of time I spend reading has definitely diminished.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t done any reading though.  I have of course found some time to read up on infant development and even squeezed in a little pleasure reading, too.

When I was pregnant with Little L, I pored over two pregnancy books in particular – Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel’s What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler’s Your Pregnancy Week by Week.  I loved these books – I was practically addicted to them, constantly reading and rereading passages.

So after Little L was born, I thought I would be just as into reading the “sequels” to those books – What to Expect the First Year (Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway) and Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week (also Curtis and Schuler).

However, that hasn’t really been the case.  I have no criticism of these books, it’s just that Little L came six weeks early, so he hasn’t hit his developmental milestones at the same time as a so-called “normal” baby.  Not that any baby develops at exactly the same rate as any other.  It’s just that tracking his development the same way I tracked my pregnancy doesn’t really work.  I do have a hand-me-down copy of Your Baby’s First Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics from my sister that I do refer to, knowing that I have to subtract six weeks from Little L’s actual age to adjust for where he should be developmentally.

It has been a good solid resource filled with all the basic, practical information a new parent can use, and a new edition just came out last month.

Because Little L was born prematurely I found myself turning to two books in particular during the first month or so after his birth – Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies by Dana Wechsler Linden, Emma Trenti Paroli, and Mia Wechsler Doron and The Premature Baby Book: Everything You Need to About Your Premature Baby from Birth to Age One by James, Martha, Robert, and William Sears.  Both of these books helped me understand what I might experience over the next few months with my baby and how best to care for him.  These books are very detailed and full of important information.

Let me just say here that Little L has always been very healthy.  He did have to stay in the NICU for his first three weeks, but that was just so he could learn to eat on his own and put on some weight.  My husband and I are so grateful and feel so blessed that he has not had to endure the difficult journey many premature babies do.

However, even though I found both of these books extremely helpful and would recommend them to any parent of a premature baby, I couldn’t always bring myself to read them.  I especially had a hard time opening them up during those three weeks Little L was in the hospital.  It’s a difficult thing to leave the hospital without your newborn, even when you know he’s doing fine and is being cared for by excellent doctors and nurses.  On more than one occasion I broke down in tears while reading these books.  I hated being separated from my little boy, I felt bad that he had such a rough start to his life, and I felt so, so sorry for those parents of other premature babies having to deal with the major complications and health problems described in the books.

It was at those times when I couldn’t bear to read another sentence about sick little babies that I met a new literary friend – Sookie Stackhouse.  Yes, instead of moping and feeling blue, I read about Charlaine Harris’ young waitress, her vampire boyfriend, and their supernatural adventures.  I know this series may seem like an odd choice for my situation, but sometimes you just need an escape, and the Sookie Stackhouse series definitely fills that need.  I’ve only read the first three books in the series so far, but I’m totally hooked.

Oh, and one more title that any new parent can use: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.

Even though Little L is not a fussy baby, it isn’t always easy to get him to sleep.  This is another book recommended by my sister, whose own son is a year and a half older than mine.  She’s been a great resource for me.  Weissbluth gives down-to-earth advice on how to get your child to sleep better, and even though my husband and I have not been perfect about following his instructions, this has been a great guide.  The book is broken down by age, with tips for each level, and Weissbluth does address prematurity and how it affects sleep development, which I appreciate.

Remember – it is possible for a new parent to fit in a little reading, and I highly recommend it for maintaining your sanity!


8 05 2008

Maybe it’s because I was psyched by National Poetry Month last month, I don’t know.  But I have read several works of fiction lately that were written in verse.

I started with a young adult title – Ringside 1925 by Jen Bryant.  Ringside 1925 is a fictionalized account of the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee.  The author tells the story of the trial through the points of view of several people living in Dayton at the time, a newspaper reporter covering the trial, and a curious young minister attending the trial to see his hero William Jennings Bryan.  I really liked this book.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Bryant managed to cover the key facts of the trial and give each character a distinctive voice, all while writing in poetic form.  This was a really fascinating work of historical fiction.

Next, my Kids’ Book Club read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  I’ve read this book several times, and I just love it.  The book is written as a series of journal entries by young student Jack who only starts the journal as a class assignment.  As he continues to write he learns that maybe, despite his initial doubts, he does like poetry and might even be able to write some himself.  He also finds that writing poetry can be a good way to deal with difficult situations.  I think the story is one that many kids can relate to, and Creech manages to teach readers about poetry in a fun, new way through that story.

After Love That Dog, I really switched gears by reading an adult verse novel, Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow.  This story follows rival packs of werewolves living in LA.  Quite a departure from the sweet story of Love That Dog.  It was a little difficult to follow when I first started it, but once I got going I was sucked in and had to see how all the pieces of the puzzle were going to fit together.  This was a really unique, intriguing book – different from anything I’ve read before.

Next I picked up a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while now – Glass by Ellen Hopkins.  Glass is the sequel to the wonderful Crank.  These books follow teenager Kristina as she descends into crystal meth addiction.  The use of verse lends itself really well to relating the urgency of Kristina’s situation.  I found myself going through a range of emotions while reading these books – sad that Kristina was being swept up by addiction, angry that she was hurting her family so much, and hopeful that she would be able to overcome her demons.  Although dealing with a difficult subject, these books made great reads.

Finally, I rounded out my poetry reading with 42 Miles by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer.  Until she moved back to her beloved Ohio a few months ago, we here in Charlotte were proud to call Zimmer a local author.  If you ever have the chance to host Zimmer for an author visit or book signing I would highly recommend her.  She spoke to a group of us children’s librarians while she was here in Charlotte, and I thought she was wonderful.  Anyway – back to the book.  42 Miles is about JoEllen, who’s lived most of her life shuttling back and forth between her mother’s home in Cincinatti and her father’s farmhouse 42 miles away.  She feels like she lives in two different worlds as she splits her time between her two parents.  On the verge of turning thirteen, JoEllen decides she is finally ready for those two worlds to meet.  This was a really touching story about the trials of being a child of divorce and learning to become your own person.  I enjoyed this story, and really loved Zimmer’s previous verse novel, Reaching for Sun.

So overall, I had a great month of reading in verse.  Hope you’ll take a look at some of these titles, too!

Celebrating Poetry

4 04 2008

April is National Poetry Month.  In my preschool storytime yesterday we celebrated by reading a few specially chosen picture books.  I wanted to expose my kids to poetry, not just picture books that happen to rhyme.  So I chose books that were illustrated poems.

We started with The Tale of Custard the Dragon.


The poem was written by Ogden Nash and copyrighted in 1936.  This picture book version, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, was published in 1995.  This has always been one of my favorite read alouds.  The language rolls right off the tongue and kids love the silly story of Custard, the cowardly dragon who musters up the courage to fight a pirate invading his home.

Next was I Am America by poet/photographer Charles R. Smith, Jr.


Kids always see themselves in the photos in the book and the inclusive words of the poem.

We ended up with a couple of classics.  First was The Moon by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson.


Finally we wrapped things up with The Jabberwocky from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.


Christopher Myers takes this nonsense poem and through his brilliant illustrations tells a modern story of battle on the basketball court.  The kids in storytime were a little perplexed by Carroll’s made-up words, but they seemed mesmerized by the sounds and rhythm, and they definitely loved the artwork.

So, all in all, I think the kids really enjoyed this kick-off to National Poetry Month.