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Onion Tears

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Gr 3-5-- Nam-Huong, a young Vietnamese girl, tries to adjust to her new life in Australia where she lives with a kind Vietnamese woman she calls Auntie. Children at school try to make friends with Nam but, haunted by memories of her family missing in Vietnam, she rejects their overtures. In time, with the help of her understanding teacher and supported by Auntie and her friend Chu Minh, she is able to come to terms with the terrifying experiences of her past and accept her new life while maintaining precious memories of her family. The story is sympathetic and well told, giving children an idea of how noncombatants, in this case a little girl, suffered during the Vietnam Conflict. If most of the characters are a bit flat, Nam herself comes across as a believable child. The Little Weaver of Thai-Yen Village (Children's Book Pr, 1987) by Tran-Khanh-Tuyet also provides a forceful glimpse of the Vietnam War from a child's perspective. Pleasing pencil sketches, many full-page, make the book more accessible to those just beginning chapter books. --Phyllis G. Sidorsky, National Cathedral School, Washington, DC

Through first-person narration, Kidd sensitively and eloquently conveys the thoughts of a young Vietnamese refugee who has found a new home in Australia with a kindly restaurateur. At the beginning of the book, Nam-Huong is unable to laugh, cry or verbalize her feelings to others; in her own words, she is like the wooden duck given to her by her beloved grandfather, who has recently died. No one knows how much she misses him and the other members of her family, with whom she has lost contact. Eventually, an understanding teacher helps Nam-Huong break through her shield of silence and reexperienceok the pleasures of being alive. Emerging as a mosaic of memories and observations, this concisely wrought novel proves highly effective in revealing how the narrator's past affects her ability to adapt to a new environment. Even if readers cannot relate to the atrocities Nam-Huong has endured, they will feel the depth of her sorrow and will come to understand her reluctance to reestablishok bonds of trust. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)

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