February 14 – International Book Giving Day

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About the Holiday

February 14th is all about love! Sharing Valentines, sharing hugs, candy, and fun, and… sharing books! There’s no better way to show a child how much they mean to you than by giving them a book. Unfortunately, many children don’t have access to or own books. International Book Giving Day was established to encourage people to buy, share, and donate books so that the children in their lives and communities can know the pleasure and educational benefits of reading. To learn more about today’s holiday and to find some tips on easy ways to get involved, visit the official International Book Giving Day website.

A Different Pond

Written by Bao Phi | Illustrated by Thi Bui

 

A little boy yawns and rubs the sleep from his eyes as his dad wakes him even before the sun has risen. His dad has already made sandwiches and packed the car for their fishing trip. As they drive out of town, the streets are silent and a chill tinges the air. The little boy’s father entertains him with stories. As he listens, the boy thinks of the kid at school who says his dad’s “English sounds like a thick, dirty river.” To him, though, his father’s “English sounds like gentle rain.”

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Even at this early hour the bait shop is open while the Mexican restaurant next door is dark. The bait man comments that the pair are earlier than usual, and the boy’s father explains that he has to work at his second job later that morning even though it’s Saturday. The little boy carefully carries the bag of minnows, feeling them “swim like silver arrows in my hands.” They stop the car along the road, climb over the guard rail, and gingerly make their way “through the tangle and scrub” to the pond.

As the boy holds his father’s calloused hand, he wonders why they still need to fish for food if his father has a second job, and his dad answers that “everything in America costs a lot of money.” Sometimes, they meet other men fishing at the pond, but today they are alone under the stars that look “like freckles.” While his father sets up their equipment, the boy gathers sticks and rocks and makes a small fire ring to provide warmth.

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

The little boy wants to help with the fishing, but he can’t bring himself to put the minnow on the hook. His father smiles, understanding how he feels. For breakfast they eat the bologna sandwiches the father made. “‘I used to fish by a pond like this one when I was a boy in Vietnam,’” the dad tells his son. The boy looks into his father’s face and asks if he fished with his brother. His father “nods, then looks away.” The boy knows that his father and uncle fought in the war side by side until the day when his dad’s “brother didn’t come home.”

When the bobber dips, the boy’s father pulls in a crappy and soon after, another. This time the boy holds the fish between his hands “to help guide the fish into the bucket. The fish feels slimy and rough at the same time,” and the boy makes a face that makes his dad laugh. His father is happy because they caught “a few fish and he knows [they] will eat tonight.”

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

As they walk back to the car, the boy wonders “what the trees look like at that other pond in the country [his] dad comes from.” The sky is just brightening as they reach home and show Mom the fish they’ve caught. She smiles, even though she’s tired, and asks her son to help with the fish before she too goes to work. Their praise for his help in catching that night’s dinner, makes the boy feel that he is growing up.

The little boy waves to his mom as she bicycles away to her job comforted by the knowledge that he, his brothers and sisters, and his mom and dad will all be together again that night around the dinner table. They’ll share crispy fried fish, rice, and funny stories. Then later they will go to sleep and “dream of fish in faraway ponds.”

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

As deep and quietly moving as a fishing pond, Bao Phi’s tribute to family, parental sacrifice, and the profound understanding of children wrenches your heart with its beautiful and honest language and touching details. Phi uses the fishing trip—which at first seems to be simply a fun outing for father and son, but is in fact an act of survival—to relate one family’s relationship with their adopted country while also delving into the universal bond between children and parents or other adults. Taken before sunup, the trip provides moments—both spoken and unspoken—for the little boy to learn and internalize the stories, feelings, and history of his heritage at a time when his own identity is dawning. The camaraderie at the dinner table is one more time to connect with and be connected to family and traditions old and new.

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Thi Bui’s detailed illustrations are washed in the mysterious and hopeful blues and grays of early morning sprinkled with stars and lit with the glow of streetlamps. The pond shimmers with moonlight—a unifying link to that other pond so far away. A No Trespassing Keep Out sign that marks the place where the little boy and his father pull over to access the pond offers an opportunity for readers to reflect on wider immigration and refugee issues. Bui’s captures the nuanced expressions passed between the loving parents who are doing everything they can to provide a better life for their children, and their  equally loving children who are dreaming of and learning what that life is. 

Extensive notes from Bao Phi and Thi Bui follow the text.

A Different Pond is an exquisite story with wisdom and insight that will impact readers during quiet story times at home and in the classroom. The book would be a warm and welcome addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 9

Capstone Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1623708030

Discover more about Bao Phi and his books on his website.

Learn more about Thi Bui, her books, and her art on her website.

You’re invited to go fishing in this A Different Pond book trailer!

International Book Giving Day Activity

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International Book Giving Day Bookmark and Bookplate

 

Get the official bookmark and bookplate of today’s holiday! With this energetic little character in your books, you’ll always have a fun reading buddy nearby! Poke around the website and find more great bookmarks and bookplates from previous years available for download too!

International Book Giving Day Bookmark | International Book Giving Day Bookplate

Picture Book Review

June 20 – World Refugee Day

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About the Holiday

On World Refugee Day, first celebrated in 2001, we commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

The Journey

By Francesca Sanna 

 

A child begins the story with a place—the family’s home in a city by the sea. The family used to visit the beach often, but not anymore, “because last year our lives changed forever,” the child reveals. “The war began,” the narrator says, turning their once-peaceful life into “chaos.” Not only was their city torn apart, the family was also, as “one day the war took [their] father.”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

The child’s mother is afraid of the darkness that has descended on them. One of her friends told her that many people are leaving, escaping to another country with high mountains. The two children ask their mother where and what this place is. She answers that “‘it is a safe place’” an then shows them pictures that contain unfamiliar trees and animals. She sighs and tells her son and daughter, “‘We will go there and not be frightened anymore.’”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Even though the children don’t want to leave, they pack up all their belongings and say goodbye to their friends. They leave at night so they won’t be caught. They travel for many days, taking various modes of transportation. With each change the family must leave more and more of their things behind.

When they reach the border, they are met by an enormous wall that they must climb over. But before they can, a guard stops them and tells them they cannot cross, that they must go back. The family has nowhere else to go, however, and they are very tired. They find a spot in the woods to sleep, but the strange noises keep the children awake. Their mother tells them not to be afraid, and in her arms they finally fall asleep as she cries silent tears.

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Suddenly, they hear shouting and see that the guards are looking for them. They run and run until they meet a man who takes them over the border. They come to the shores of a huge body of water that stretches far into the distance. The family must cross this water to be safe. They board a ferry loaded with other families and sail for days. On the way, they tell stories of the creatures who lurk in the waters below, “ready to gobble [them] up if the boat capsizes.” Other times they tell stories about magic fairies who live in the land they are going to—ones who have “magic spells to end the war.”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

In the dawn light, the children and their mother finally see land. They are close to the place where they will be safe, the mother says, but it requires many more days of train travel across many more borders. On the journey the child watches birds migrating just as they are and hopes that one day, like the birds, they will find a new home where they “can be safe and begin our story again.”

Francesca Sanna’s moving compilation of true immigrant stories into a powerful narrative that speaks for so many provides a compelling and sensitive way to discuss the world’s refugee crisis with children. Sanna’s straightforward storytelling allows children to understand the cause and effect relationship of the war on those it displaces. Her focus on the length and difficulty of the family’s journey gives young children—for whom even short times and distances can seem long—a starting point for deeper comprehension. Sanna tempers frightening aspects of the story with her calm delivery and peppering of courage on the part of the mother and children along the way.

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Sanna’s stunning and emotionally resonant artwork deftly presents the experiences of loss and love the story contains. Her use of the amorphous, seeping black images demonstrate the movement of the war and the ravages it imposes. Collage-like aspects to the illustrations gives readers much to talk about at varying age-appropriate levels. As the family’s journey begins, their suitcases and trunks filled with belongings are piled high, but as it continues, their luggage dwindles until only the most precious valuables remain—the two children and their mother. Sanna’s color pallet of oranges, reds, yellows, and greens are eye-catching and convey the urgency of the family’s plight. The final image of the mother, son, and daughter carried on the wind by a majestic bird offers the opportunity to talk about hope with young readers.

Ages 3 – 8

Flying Eye Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1909263994

Learn more about Francesca Sanna and her work on her website!

World Refugee Day Activity

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Learn to Say “Welcome” in Different Languages

 

With this printable Welcome sign, you can learn how to greet others in their native language!

Picture Book Review