Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival by Marsha Forchuck Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, illustrated by Brian Deines
Prodigious Canadian author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has built an admirable, award-winning reputation by writing about difficult subjects for younger readers, including the Armenian genocide, world wars, and Canadian internment. Her previous focus on the Vietnam War featured survivor/refugee Son Thi Anh Tuyet in a two-part narrative nonfiction series, Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War and One Step at a Time : A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way.
In her latest picture book, Skrypuch presents then-6-year-old Tuan Ho who, with his mother and two older sisters, leave their Ho Chi Minh City home in the darkness of night, and dodge gunshots to board a fishing boat. After six days of drifting – the sun relentless, the boat leaking, the too-many escapees without enough drinking water – an American aircraft carrier brings the passengers to safety. With a rich palette of deep, vibrant colors, artist Brian Deines adds swirling desperation and swift motion across every detailed spread.
With Tuan safe at story’s end, his smile enhanced with a satisfied milk mustache, Skrypuch adds an additional three pages that provide further context about the Vietnam War and the “boat people” who risked their lives to leave their homeland. Tuan shares numerous family photos from decades past, culminating on the final page with two pictures from 2016, one with the Ho family all together, and another with Tuan with his wife and two young children. He reveals his continuing story after the family’s escape to their eventual arrival, reunion, and settlement in Canada – testimony to their resilience and perseverance against so many near-impossible odds. Filled with urgency, fear, and ultimately hope, Tuan’s real-life odyssey proves to be an illuminating inspiration for all readers.