cover image Leaving Vietnam: The Journey of Tuan Ngo, a Boat Boy

Leaving Vietnam: The Journey of Tuan Ngo, a Boat Boy

Sarah S. Kilborne. Aladdin Paperbacks, $3.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80797-8

Gripping real-life adventures, told in a childlike first-person voice, will keep beginning readers interested in this Ready-to-Read chapter book. Leaving his mother and brothers in their village in South Vietnam, Tuan Ngo joins his father and a group of others fleeing the Viet Cong regime. As they make their way through dark woods Tuan articulates his fears: ""If we're caught, we'll be put in a labor camp for five years. My father was in labor camp for six years, and he says that all he ate there were rotten potatoes. I don't want to eat rotten potatoes."" Crowded onto a small fishing boat, the refugees are adrift on the South China Sea when the boat breaks down. They are raided by pirates, who steal their few valuables but save their lives by fixing the boat's engine and giving them fuel and water. They spy a German oil tanker, and when the crew ignores them, the desperate escapees put a hole in their own fishing boat so that it starts to sink and the Germans are forced to help. Kilborne (Peach and Blue) also chronicles the seemingly endless waiting: Tuan and his father spend more than a year moving from camp to camp before they are approved for immigration to the U.S. Sweet's (the Pinky and Rex books) abundant watercolors are tender and inviting even when depicting the tensest scenes. Emphasizing Tuan's bond with his father, they project an aura of security that balances the frequently harrowing account. Ages 6-9. (Feb.)