Children books have an extraordinary power to convene powerful messages not only to their usual target readers, but also to a larger audience. When the power of words is strengthened by the power of images, the result is often impressive.
In A Different Pond, the poetic text of Bao Phi joins the emotional, pastel-like by Thi Bui, the result being a short yet powerful children story in a life of a Vietnamese immigrant family. The age target is 6-8 years, but being far beyond this group of readers I felt moved and thoughtful by the story.
A young boy wakes early in the morning, on a weekend day, to join his father for a couple of hours for fishing in a pond nearby. The time spent together is an opportunity to share life stories, especially from the 'old country', but also short remarks about life. 'Everything in America costs a lot of money, he explains. I feel callouses in his hand when he squeezes mine'.
Both the writer and the illustrator were born in Vietnam and arrived in the USA following the civil war, and one can seize the nostalgy after a world they don't necessarily know but was created through adults stories and memories. In a couple of words, and powerful simple images, a story about longing, hard life and first generation of immigrants was created, which can help us, the readers, regardless our age, to better understand the feeling of displacement and the need to stay connected with your roots, especially in a dramatically new environment. Children and adults need to nurture the memories of home and it is the power of story to invoke emotions and remember the past.
'I look at the trees as we walk back to the car. I wonder what the trees look like at the other pond, in the country my dad comes from'.
Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review