The Little Refugee

Little RefugeeWritten by:  Anh Do and Suzanne Do

Illustrated by:  Bruce Whatley

Pubished by:  Allen & Unwin  2011

Ages:  5 – 7 years

Theme:  Hope, believe, faith

Opening Lines:  I was born in a faraway country called Vietnam.  It’s a crazy place – strange food, snakes in bottles, five people squashed onto the back of one little motorbike.

Synopsis: (from Amazon) Anh Do’s inspirational story about his family’s incredible escape from war-torn Vietnam and his childhood in Australia, told especially for children. Giant waves crashed down on our little boat. I was terrified but my mum hugged me tight and told me, “Everything will be okay. Don’t worry, it will be okay.” Anh Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. It was a dangerous journey, with murderous pirates and terrifying storms, but they managed to survive. Life in suburban Australia was also hard for a small boy with no English and funny lunches. But there was a loving extended family, lots of friends, and always something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa, and their sister Tram. And eventually for a young Anh, who tried hard to see the bright side of life no matter what the difficulty, there was triumph. The Little Refugee tells the uplifting and inspiring childhood story of one of Australia’s favorite personalities.

Why I like it:  I love historical fiction, or biographical stories and this is no exception.  A moving account of fleeing ones own country and building a new life in a strange world.  Anh’s true story is an outstanding one to share with young readers. He shows that it is possible to hope against all odds, and that love and family can bring good from any hardship  The illustrations are large and clear  in colours and pencil.  Anh Do is one of Australia’s leading comedians. He has also acted in television series and films, written screenplays and is a sought-after keynote speaker. His unique and inspirational experience leaving Vietnam as a toddler and growing up in Australia is originally told in his bestselling and award-winning memoir, The Happiest Refugee.

Resources/Findings:  Here is a reading of the book..   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okW724EQhZI

Great Educational website for discussion on Refugees ……  http://www.globalwords.edu.au/units/refugees_jpy3_html/pop04.html

A Great Teachers resource….   http://www.refugeeweek.org.au/resources/2012_RW_ResourceKit_Ch5.pdf

More Teachers Resources….   http://www.globalwords.edu.au/units/refugees_jpy3_html/index.html

There are many resources for this story which would encourage discussion about not only refugees, but new kids to the school or area.

Pop over  and visit the lovely author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books.    Her blog is full of resources links and activities associated with the books reviewed by many authors.



About Diane Tulloch

Known also as the Patientdreamer I am a writer who loves to dream, and is passionate about writing stories for the young so that they may join me in the wonders of adventure in countries and cultures afar, and in special moments to remember.
This entry was posted in Children's literature, Folklore / multicultural, Picture book, Picture Book Review and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. clarbojahn says:

    Like you I love historical fiction or memoir. Memoir is not fiction though, it is true stories. So I am a little confused by this story. Did i read it wrong?

    One of my son’s friends in childhood was a vietnam refugee from coming to USA in boats. Whenever he ate with us he said was he going to eat something strange like squash!! I wonder what happened to him. He really knew how to draw. We all tried to encourage him to go to college but he didn’t go. .

    • Hi Clar, this story is based on his original story which is a memoir. This has been cut down and turned into a pb for younger kids. It is a shame you lost touch with your son’s friend. Would be interesting to know what he is doing now, after all this time.
      I love historical fiction and memoirs.

      • clarbojahn says:

        Yes, it is a shame. I will be asking my sons this weekend what happened to him..My sons are champions in keeping in touch with their old friends. Hugh even helped redecorate my house once by moving all the furniture around. he was so strong.

        Thanks for introducing this picture book to me. 🙂

  2. Wow, can’t wait to read how this one was handled. Just picked up Minji’s Salon last night – thanks!

    • Oh, I hope you like Minji. I found it funny and sweet all rolled in together…lol.
      This one is an interesting one. Very much what I love.
      I meant to add a note at the bottom of my review, that 100% of their profits from the sale of this book go to the Loreto Vietnam-Australia Program, a charity that looks after extremely poor and disabled children in Vietnam. Just some interesting piece of news for you.

  3. I love that the author wrote the story in his own voice. Such an important story to tell. Especially since it is true refugee story. Such a difficult period in history. You indicated he was a “celebrity” in Austrailia? The country must have embraced Anh Do as a child.

    • Hi Pat. I added an additional note in my reply to Julie above which you might find interesting. Anh Do became one of Australia’s best-loved comedians. His original memoir was hailed a national bestseller in Australia. I have still yet to read that one. Australia, even today has problems with “boat people” landing on their shores, seeking refuge. They have also come as far as New Zealand.

  4. Catherine Johnson says:

    What an awesome story! It’s so cool he is achieving all those things in Australia.

    • Hi Catherine, yes it is amazing isn’t it! Just shows the true spirit of believing you can achieve anything if you want it badly enough. Have a great weekend.

  5. Fact is so much more exciting than fiction, isn’t is? We have it so easy in American compared to the Vietnamese. But, are we grateful?

    • Interesting comment you have made, Jarm; are we grateful? Hmmm…. I have travelled quite a bit over the years now and am always appreciative whenever I come home of what I have here in New Zealand. (although I am always sad when my holiday is over, I want to turn around and go off somewhere else again..lol.) Each country I think has it’s share of problems, just some deal with them better than others.
      Your comment also reminded me of one time when I had returned from Russia, watching people queue for hours to get items such as toothpaste, soap etc… from a pharmacy in what was called “Leningard” in those days. I also saw as we travelled by tour bus, cars lined for miles waiting for a petrol station to open with it’s allotment of petrol to sell. A couple of cars had mattresses on the top so they could sleep overnight if they needed to. When I was back at work in my Post office a few weeks later we had a queue of people one busy afternoon, and a chap at the back of the line started yelling abuse at us, swearing, because we were not working fast enough. (I have to admit I sucked in air that moment, to avoid giving him a piece of my mind. I thought, “man, you need to spend time in Russia, then you will be grateful for only having to wait, oh… all of 20mins to pay your overdue relicencing bill”….. Some people! *sigh.*

  6. Joanna says:

    I am so glad Anh wrote a version of his story for children, too. There are still so many children who arrive as refugees in our nations and it is great to have such uplifting stories for them and other children.

    • You are so right, Joanna. It’s wonderful to have success stories, so they can see that even in a strange land they can strive and become who they want to be. I would love to read his memoir. I think that would be very interesting too. Thanks for your lovely comment.

  7. This sounds very interesting, Diane! I’d love to see how such difficult subjects were handled to make them accessible to 5-7 year olds. And I bet kids would find the story very inspiring. Thanks so much for adding this one to our list! 🙂

  8. laura516 says:

    I’m reading a memoir now called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. There is also a picture book version with the same title. So interesting to take a full memoir and distill it for children. This one sounds beautifully done.

  9. This is a great topic.Stories like this are amazing. I am glad they have versions kids can read! 🙂

  10. This book sounds excellent for kids, but also for grownups of my vintage who remember “the boat people” in news reports of the day.

  11. Darlene says:

    What a great story for children. I believe these stories do help Children all over the world appreciate what they have and teach how a positive atitude can overcome anything.

  12. This book looks like a good way for children to understand this slice of history. For many kids, I think such a journey would be unimaginable without a book about it.

    • I too think it’s great, Kirsten. That there are books about the struggles some people face in their every day life. I remember at the SCBWI in LA I went to one of the speakers mentioned that kids need to know, so don’t be scared to write about it. Thank you!

  13. This is an exciting find. It makes a good pairing with Suzanne Collins’s new book, Year of the Jungle, though the dates are off by a few years. Thanks!

  14. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I agree with the others. Sounds like a great story.

  15. Wow! What and incredible story. And a unique one for a kid’s book. Thanks for sharing!

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