The Little Refugee


Anh Do’s family exclaimed ‘What a great country‘ when they first sighted Australia. This would be their home. They had escaped Vietnam after the Vietnamese war The family had left behind everything it knew and loved. It had suffered through storms, blazing heat and pirate attack to reach safety. How would it fare in Australia?

The Little Refugee shares his experiences, from early memories of playing happily as one of a family of fourteen within a tiny three-room house to escape. Finding his feet in Australia was hard. His family were desperately poor. Basic items such as school uniforms were too expensive. Furthermore, the family was different, from its language, background, food and understanding. How could they survive and thrive? Everything seemed so hard!

The story is harrowing and heart-warming. We need this family to do well and be accepted in a new country. In addition, we want their efforts and individuality to be valued and understood. The Little Refugee is a wonderful story that we recommend for home and school.

Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book

100% of sales’ profits for this title are donated to the Loreto-Vietnam- Australia Program

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The Little Refugee

Anh Do and Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

(Allen & Unwin)

The Little Refugee is Anh Do, beloved writer of the  Ninja Kid series, amongst other works.  Anh Do’s father fought for the Republican Army of Vietnam in that country’s war against the Viet Cong. ‘Boat people’ like Anh Do’s family, who’d fought on the defeated side, sought safety after the war. Anh Do was a little boy,  one of fourteen in ‘a tiny three- room house.’ Yet the family was happy ‘because there were always lots of people to play‘ with.
Their escape from Vietnam was traumatic. Their boat was desperately overcrowded. Passengers suffered through storms, blazing heat, and pirates. Even gold teeth were taken! A German cargo ship found the desperate vessel and took them to safety. ‘What a great country’‘ was their first impression of Australia.
However, assimilation into a new world was testing. Not only were the family desperately poor, but they had no language or cultural connections. Anh Do shares his mother’s words that ‘Even when things seem really terrible, something good can come out of it.’ Things were terrible for the family, yet they stood firm and fought on.
Anh Do concludes his story with a school assembly that his parents attended, unusually. His story is emotional, impactful and real so that we are engaged and want his success and happiness. ‘The Little Refugee’ is a necessary book that tells the story of a real experience, history and change. Moreover the simple directness of text and the pictures are superb. Bruce Whatley builds colour in as the writer and his family become happier and settled. Bookwagon recommends this story to all readers.


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