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by Linda Himelblau


School Library Journal:

Gr 4-8 –After fleeing their native Vietnam and spending years in the Philippines recovering from TB, Du Nguyen and his grandmother have come at last to the United States to be reunited with Du’s parents and siblings. The 11-year-old’s life is filled with adjustments to his new family, school, language, and lifestyle. He finds refuge in a storage shed where he hides a cat and plots mischievous revenge on his spying neighbor. Du is rambunctious, impulsive, and stubborn. He harasses his brother and sisters, torments his neighbor, and frustrates his overworked father. At school, his lack of effort and sullen attitude mask his struggles with self-identity and assimilation. Only his grandmother sees Du as a “dragon,” lucky, smart, and resourceful. When he salvages parts to rebuild a bike, he is accused of theft. The elderly neighbor comes to his rescue and Du learns valuable lessons about truth, tolerance, and helping others. When his math prowess is revealed to the class, his annoying behavior and hyperactive demeanor begin to improve. Good deeds and positive thinking fuel his emotional growth. Du’s voice is energetic, descriptive, and direct. His reflections on refugee life and coming to America are unadorned. His bond with his grandmother is strong. Du’s perspective and story may help sensitize readers to the cultural and emotional hurdles facing many immigrant classmates. While his disruptive behavior belies his abilities, in the end he begins to mature, accepting and demonstrating his family’s values of respect, hard work, and honesty.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC –Gerry Larson (Reviewed February 1, 2006) (School Library Journal, vol 52, issue 2, p132)


  • ALA Notable Children’s Books – Middle Readers Category: 2006


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Ages 9-12, Family, Refugee Camp