Monday, May 4, 2015

LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhha Lai for Children's Book Week

Children's Book Week is May 4--10, 2015. To celebrate, I'm featuring a book with excellent Newbery potential which is also a wonderful choice if you're looking for diversity.

Yes, yes, I know it's also Screen Free Week (you may remember I participated last year and oh gosh, the year before was epic ("mistakes were made"), but now that I have a smart phone, I admit it. I'm hooked. I've decided one or two screen-free days a week is the best I can do.

Don't forget to go outside and run around once in a while. Or read a book! How about this one?




Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (hardcover, Harpercollins, 272 pages, February 2015, for ages 8 to 12)

Synopsis (from the publisher): A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Why I recommend it: The voice! It's so realistic you'll swear Mai is a real almost-thirteen-year-old girl who lives in your neighborhood or else you're overhearing her talking at the beach. And some of her observations will make you laugh out loud. Meanwhile, her gradual awakening to the world of her roots is deftly handled and almost guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. Another reason I'm so impressed? Vietnam itself becomes a character in this beautifully written novel. I love it when that happens.


Favorite lines (from p. 89): "You'd think a little village in North Vietnam couldn't help but be tranquil and quiet, full of banana groves and bamboo forests, but everything here has a big mouth. Dogs fighting, crickets blasting, frogs screaming, chickens clucking, birds screeching, mice scurrying..."


Bonus: I learned a great deal about Vietnam. 

Visit the author's website



22 comments:

  1. This is on my must-read list! Can't wait to read it~ thanks for the review!

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    1. You'll enjoy it, Jess. Thanks for stopping by. I'm really looking forward to your new book.

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  2. Sounds like a great story. And good for you for unplugging. Not something I can do, though.

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    1. I managed a completely screen-free day over the weekend, but it really is hard to do more than that, Natalie. It helps to have a library book and some sunshine.

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  3. I had seen the cover on this one but that's all. Finding voice in your writing is quite a challenge. Thanks for your insights and I'll definitely be reading this one soon.

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    1. I know your TBR stack is probably tipping over, but this is well worth reading, Greg.

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  4. This sounds like a wonderful book! I used to teach children whose parents had immigrated from Vietnam - after many ordeals! - and saw so often this culture conflict between children and parents. (I also taught, and witnessed the same conflict among, children from Laos.) This sounds like something that should be in every MB classroom.

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    1. It would be a perfect book for classroom discussions, Elizabeth.

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  5. Definitely am going to have to check this book out, sounds so interesting! And, judging by the quote you posted, very well written.

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    1. Oh, it's lovely writing, Anne Marie. So well done.

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  6. This sounds perfectly charming. I wish I had had this when I was teaching. I had a lot of students who were Southeast Asian. This book would have been very popular with them. Thanks for this review. I will check this one out.

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    1. Indeed, your students would have loved this book, Rosi.

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  7. I really love the cover! I feel like I know so little about Vietnam, so this really sounds intriguing.I also am a sucker for a great voice. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Joanne!

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    1. You're welcome, Jenni. I love the cover too. And if you read this book, you'll come away from it knowing a lot more about Vietnam and the Vietnamese way of life.

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  8. OMG YES! I love Thanhha Lai! I haven't actually read this one yet, but I HAVE read "Inside Out And Back Again". Have you heard of that one? I forgot to add, the best thing is...I am SO able to relate to this book because I'm from Vietnam too! Well, kinda. My parents were born in Vietnam, so technically, I have Vietnamese blood. Okay, now I'm rambling. Thanks for reminding me about Thanhha Lai! :-)

    ~Cindy

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    1. I've certainly heard of her other book, Cindy, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Oh, yes, you would love this book. But it's really perfect for anyone to read, because it helps those of us from other backgrounds understand the culture. I really enjoyed learning about the food and the things people eat to keep mosquitoes from biting.

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  9. I'm running a day late today (but I did get outside earlier, so that balances it out, yes? lol), but this sounds lovely! I so enjoy books that transport me to another country and open my eyes to its beauty. Moreover, I believe my daughter and my book club is reading another book by this author this coming month, so I think this was meant to be!

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    1. As far as I'm concerned, Suzanne, there's no such thing as a day late in the world of blogging! Sometimes I visit blogs three or four days after the person has posted. No big deal. Glad to hear you got outside, though.

      This would be an excellent book club choice.

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  10. I read Inside Out and Back Again by this author and I loved it. Your review of Listen, Closely is excellent and I am definitely excited to read something else by Thanhha Lai! Thanks so much for sharing and for bringing this book to my attention. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Jess, you're the third person to mention Thanhha Lai's first book. I'm definitely going to have to read that soon.

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  11. My library has a copy of this and I've had it on my tbr list way before publication. And still I got distracted by all the pretty books out there. Thanks for the reminder. I love that you enjoyed it because it tells me I will probably enjoy it too. :)

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    1. There are always too many pretty (and pretty wonderful) books out there, Akoss. I'm sure you will love this book.

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