There are Wishes hanging heavily on the night the family make their escape. There are wishes that the clock would be slower and the boat would be bigger. Then there’s the journey, far from all they know, wondering if they might ever return to grandfather and the little black dog again…

Victo Ngai’s illustrations are layered, rich, empathetic and heavy with pain and meaning. When the sun beats upon the tiny boat, we feel the fragility of the desperate passengers, while hopes of rescue and sanctuary are almost tangible.

This is the story of Múón Thį Vān, whose family fled South Vietnam in the 1980’s seeking safety. Her brief text is laden with aching and fear. This against the pictures make the book weighted with meaning and compassion.

Bookwagon loves and recommends Wishes to all  picture book loves, all those who read and think compassionately.

This book is a Kirkus Star reviewed title.

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By Múón Thį Vān, illustrations by Victo Ngai

(Orchard Books)- hardback

There are many Wishes on the night the journey begins. It seems that the night ‘wished it was quiet’ while the bag ‘wished it was deeper’. We are with the littlest member of the family, watching the older members, packing, leave-taking. Her silent observations hang heavy. What’s more the little black dog that lingers alongside her seems aware of what is unfolding.
There are prayers before the early, stealthy farewell. It seems as though we can feel the ache of the children holding their grandfather, the begging of the dog against the mother. Then the trek along the long, winding path begins. While mother, laden with baby and bags does not look back, we see the distance of home, with the little girl.
Thereafter, there are queues to the tiny boat that will be tumbled by the rough sea. The rain sears across the page, while the waves surge in navy and coffee colours. Then the tiny oat feels beached beneath the weight of the pounding sun. Beneath it we realise the aching of the families aboard the boat.
Múón Thį Vān  tells the story of her family’s migration from southern Vietnam by boat to Hong Kong. We feel the family’s fear, secrecy and complete reliance upon being rescued from dangerous circumstances. Like The Little Refugee and A Different Pond, this story is terrifying, desperate and brave.
Victo Ngai’s illustrations are rich, layered, tonal and painterly. We feel as though we are falling into them. They remind me of the work of Chris Van Allsburg or David Wiesner.
Altogether, Wishes is an exceptional, beautiful picture book, that we recommend to all picture book aficionados and empathetic readers.


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