Reviewed by Mary Roche
We all need to hear happy stories: stories of overcoming hardships, of survival against the odds, and optimism. Anh Do was a refugee who, with his parents and extended family, fled war-torn Vietnam and settled in Australia. This book is an account of his early life, the harshness of war and the dreadfulness of the boat journey. Whatley’s gorgeous illustrations show us these long-ago memories in sepia. As we move closer to the present, he introduces a more colourful palette.
Do is upbeat and humorous in his account of his first encounters with Australian life. School was hard, life for his family was hard, but he overcame all obstacles and thrived despite them. In an understated way, he shows how his mother is an amazingly resilient person who encouraged her children to look for the positives in life, to be grateful for the new start they got, and to work hard to secure a future for themselves. She exemplified these values in her own life.
Do is now one of Australia’s foremost comedians. Anh and Suzanne Do are donating 100% of the money raised by sales of this book to an organisation that helps poor and disabled Vietnamese children.
Teachers could combine this book with other more recent accounts of migration to show children what is possible when people are given a chance of a new life in new surroundings.