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by Laura Manivong


School Library Journal:

Gr 7–10— When 12-year-old Vonlai’s family escapes communist rule in Laos, he expects to find safety in a refuge camp in Thailand. He does not expect to practically drown in the Mekong River or to experience the horrible conditions that he and his family find themselves in. The refugee camp offers little food, water, adequate sanitation, or security, and the heat is relentless. Vonlai thrives at school, but after one year, he is too old for even this meager asylum. An elderly refugee, Colonel, befriends him and teaches him to whittle away, both the days that turn to years and the wooden figurines he is carving. Yet, it is the ever-present threat to his 16-year-old sister’s virtue that sabotages any sense of well-being. A guard watches her, stalking and circling in closer and closer, keeping readers feeling as uneasy as Vonlai. This compelling novel offers significant historical background. This is certainly a book to prompt purposeful discussion to increase historical and multicultural awareness.—Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY –Alison Follos (Reviewed March 1, 2010) (School Library Journal, vol 56, issue 3, p163)


10th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, Education, Family, Refugee Camp, Teen