I kept seeing references to today’s Perfect Picture Book in my twitter feed and lists of picture books about the immigrant experience. I knew it was one I’d like to feature here, even though I figured it’d been out for a while. I was so surprised to learn that it was published earlier this fall.
Title: A Different Pond
Written By: Bao Phi
Illustrated By: Thi Bui
Publisher/date: Capstone Young Readers/2017
Suitable for Ages: 6-8
Themes/Topics: immigrants; fishing; father-son relationship; Vietnam; family traditions.
Dad wakes me quietly so Mom can keep sleeping. It will be hours before the sun comes up.
Brief Synopsis: A young boy and his immigrant father go fishing to provide dinner for the family.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Vietnam, the family’s country of origin;
- Have you ever gone fishing? Did you catch a crappie or some other fish? What was in your tackle box? For a good listing of what you’ll need for fresh water fishing, including definitions and pictures of the items, check out this article from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for Young Naturalists.
Why I Like this Book:
A Different Pond is a beautifully-written, slice-of-life story that is a mirror into the lives of Vietnamese immigrants in the early 1980s. I loved the seeming simplicity of the story – a boy and his dad are going fishing. But there is so much more that the narrator reveals: they leave before sun-up, as the father is working a weekend job to earn more money; they fish for food, not sport; the dad reminisces about fishing in Vietnam with the brother who didn’t survive the war.
Like Last Stop on Market Street, A Different Pond is a window into a part of American life. Bui’s graphic novel-like illustrations help heighten the sense of immediacy and sense that the narrator, although a young boy, is mature for his age. I especially loved examining the endpapers that feature items that may have been found in a typical Vietnamese immigrant household in the early 1980s.
Both Phi and Bui immigrated to the United States as young children, as they recount in Notes at the end of the book. Photographs from their childhoods accompany the Notes.
A Note about Craft:
Phi’s choice of first-person POV draws the reader into the story, helping her/him feel as if s/he is part of the action.
As with Last Stop on Market Street, A Different Pond is many-layered. At its most basic, it’s the story of a young boy and his dad going fishing. We also learn, though, through subtle clues, that the family is not only recent immigrants, but that they are struggling financially. I found the reference to a “bare bulb” burning at the outset of the story particularly poignant and a wonderful example of showing not telling.
Learn more about Capstone Young Readers, an American independent publisher.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!