A Different Pond
By Bao Phi
Illustrated By Thi Bui
Published by Capstone Young Readers
Age Range: 6+

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“Spare and simple, a must-read for our times.”  —Kirkus Reviews

Description
Featured on the 2017 Children’s Best Books Lists including Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Washington Post, Kirkus, New York Public Library, and more!

Acclaimed poet Bao Phi delivers a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son—and between cultures, old and new. A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event—a long-ago fishing trip. As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.

The New York Times has said that Bao Phi’s poetry “rhymes with the truth.” Kirkus Reviews calls A Different Pond “a must-read for our times”. Thi Bui’s striking, evocative art paired with Phi’s expertly crafted prose has earned this powerful picture books six starred reviews.

 

 

Reviews & Accolades
Phi, a poet whose parents were Vietnamese refugees, draws from childhood memories in this story about fishing with his father before sunrise on the lakes of Minneapolis. They didn’t do it for fun; it was a way to put food on the table. “Everything in America costs a lot of money,” his father tells him. Sometimes, they run into fishermen from other marginalized communities: a Hmong man “speaks English like my dad and likes to tell funny jokes,” and a black man “shows me his colorful lure collection.” Though the morning is an adventure for the boy, it’s the start of a long day for his father, who heads to work afterward (as does the boy’s mother). Bui (The Best We Could Do) uses confident ink lines and watery washes of deep blue to evoke the predawn setting and tender familial relationship. Graphic novel panels and strong figures give the pages the air of a documentary as Phi celebrates an unexpected superhero: a father who endures a strange new culture, works to support his family, cherishes time with his son, and draws no attention to the sacrifices he’s made.
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

This gorgeous tale about a father/son fishing trip shows the interconnectedness of family and the inexorable way that generational history impacts the present. The story is told from the boy’s perspective, as his father wakes him long before dawn to go fishing. Although the child enjoys the outing as a special adventure with his dad, they are fishing for food, not sport, and they must be home in time for the father to leave for work. The quiet time together provides opportunities for the man to talk about his past life fishing with his brother in a different pond in Vietnam, long ago before the war and before coming to America. After they return home, triumphant, with a bucket of fish, the boy contemplates his role as the youngest in the family—no longer a baby—and even though he is sad that both his parents have to work, he knows there will be a happy, love-filled family dinner later that night. Bui’s cinematic illustrations make use of panels and weighted lines, evoking the perfect background or facial expression for each piece of text. The text placement and composition of the illustrations allow each occurrence or observation to be its own distinct event, stringing together the small, discrete moments that make up a life, a memory, and a history into a cohesive whole. This gentle coming-of-age story is filled with loving, important aspects of the immigrant experience and is a first purchase for all libraries.
School Library Journal (Starred Review)

“A fishing trip is not just a fishing trip in this poignant, semiautobiographical tale. As a young boy growing up in a Vietnamese refugee family in Minneapolis, Phi would wake up “hours before the sun comes up” to go fishing with his dad. Right from the start, he hints at his family’s dire straits: “In the kitchen the bare bulb is burning.” Readers learn they are up so early because his dad got a second job. And Phi asks innocently, “If you got another job, why do we still have to fish for food?” At the pond, father and son share moments of tenderness. A nod here—when Phi lights a fire with one strike of a match; a warning there—to avoid “the spicy stuff” in his bologna sandwich. Father and son also bond through stories. “I used to fish by a pond like this one when I was a boy in Vietnam,” says Dad. “With your brother?” Phi asks. Dad nods and looks away, a clue to the unspeakable devastation of the war. When they catch enough fish for dinner they head home, Phi dreaming about the landscape of Dad’s home country. Together, Phi’s gentle, melodic prose and Bui’s evocative art, presented in brushy and vividly colored panels and double-page spreads, rise above the melancholy to tell a powerful, multilayered story about family, memory, and the costs of becoming a refugee. Spare and simple, a must-read for our times.
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Groups Represented
Vietnamese American
Vietnamese

Themes
#OwnVoices
Cultural Differences
Cultural Identity
Cultural Traditions
Family Relationships
Identity
Immigration
Migrant Life
War

Setting
United States (Minneapolis)

Engagement Projects & Resources
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