Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review - The Paper Boat

The Paper Boat
by Thao Lam
Date: 2020
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

In The Paper Boat, Thao’s signature collage art tells the wordless story of one family’s escape from Vietnam―a journey intertwined with an ant colony’s parallel narrative.

At her home in Vietnam, a girl rescues ants from the sugar water set out to trap them. Later, when the girl’s family flees war-torn Vietnam, ants lead them through the moonlit jungle to the boat that will take them to safety. Before boarding, the girl folds a paper boat from a bun wrapper and drops it into the water, and the ants climb on. Their perilous journey, besieged by punishing weather, predatory birds, and dehydration, before reaching a new beginning, mirrors the family’s own.

Impressionistic collages and a moving, Own Voices narrative make this a one-of-a-kind tale of courage, resilience, and hope.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I thought I would like this one more than I did. I think I was thrown by the narrative with the ants; you really only get the significance of that after you read the author's note.

This is a wordless picture book, illustrated with cut-paper collage, that details the escape and journey of a family of refugees fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s. The story is easy enough to follow... up to a point. After the little girl drops a piece of paper, the ants climb on and go on their own journey... which involves vicious seagulls and a lot of drowning. I guess the idea was to use the ants instead of people for the more graphic aspects of the story. But it's still pretty dark.

The book doesn't really work without a reading of the author's note at the end, which I'm not crazy about; I think picture books should be able to get their message across without too much explanation.

The collages are okay, but I'm not really a fan of the spare style. The bleakness of some of the panels works, given the subject matter, but I didn't think there was enough of a contrast (at least colour-wise) between the panels that depicted the refugees' flight and the ones that showed them safe in their new home.

Overall, this is a decent refugee story, and would probably work best in a classroom setting where more discussion about the topic can follow. I'm not sure if kids would get a lot out of it if they just flipped through it on their own (especially if they didn't bother reading the author's note at the end).

Thank you to NetGalley and Owlkids Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: n/a
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.6 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment