‘What a great country!’ my parents said to each other when we arrived in Australia.
In this first person narrative, Ahn Do tells readers about his early years in “a faraway country called Vietnam” where his family was poor but happy – thirteen people living in a tiny three room house. He then tells of the dangers the men of the family faced staying in Vietnam, and their subsequent journey to Australia in “an old wooden fishing boat that stank of fish”. He also shares details of the family’s new life here in Australia, finishing on the upbeat note of Anh’s election as class captain at his new primary school.
The Little Refugee is a beautiful, important picture book, telling of one family’s refugee experience. Aimed at primary school readers, it tells Do’s story in simple language using details which children will connect with -t he fear of being in a leaky boat out at sea, the humour of his younger brother being dressed as a girl, the difficulties of making new friends and the pride of being chosen as class captain.
Illustrations, by Bruce Whatley use ink outlines and a mix of warm pastel colours for the pages in Australia and sepia tones for the spreads set in Vietnam and aboard the boat, creating a visual contrast between the parts of Do’s life.
Do’s earlier autobiography aimed at adults, The Happiest Refugee has received many accolades. The Little Refugee provides a wonderful means of sharing his story with a younger audience and in highlighting the refugee experience more generally.
The Little Refugee, by Ahn Do & Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Allen & Unwin, 2011
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