by Thanhha Lai, ages 8 – 12, a 2012 Newbery Honor book and 2011 National Book Award Winner
Delightful verse brings you right inside the head of a girl who has always lived in Saigon with her mother and brothers. Her vivid descriptions of papaya trees and mopeds and water spinach and hammocks illustrate how much she loved her life there. In 1975, as the war ends badly, we follow young Ha as she boards an overcrowded boat, “trapped in putrid, hot air made from fermented bodies and oily sweat” as their country, South Vietnam, disappears.
A man she thinks is a cowboy rescues them from a refugee camp in Florida, but life in Alabama is hard. At school, classmates tease her with whispers of “Boo-Da,” and a bully she calls Pink Boy torments her. Her brothers save her more than once, by bicycle or motorcycle. The family gets by.
This story is based on the author’s own experience, moving from Vietnam to America, so it rings with authenticity and lyrical grace. Highly recommended—even for those who think they don’t like books in verse. The author's website is here http://www.thanhhalai.com/author/