Review of Finding Papa

Finding Papa Finding Papa
by Angela Pham Krans; illus. by Thi Bui
Primary    Harper/HarperCollins    40 pp.
2/23    9780063060968    $18.99

Little Mai is close to her father; she loves when they play games and when Papa makes crocodile jaws with his hands (“CHOMP! CHOMP!”). When he leaves their rural Vietnam village in search of a new home for the family, Mai is despondent. But then one night Mama packs a small bag and the two of them set off to join him: walking through rice paddies, fording a river, climbing into a boat’s cargo hold crowded with others who are also looking for their families. Despite the harrowing journey, Mai remains brave by remembering playing crocodile with her father. The family is eventually reunited in America (with Papa now sporting a mustache!). Bui’s (A Different Pond, rev. 9/17) illustrations emphasize detail and perspective. Mai is often shown being carried in her mother’s arms or on Mama’s back; though she is physically small, the child’s experiences and perspectives loom large. Some double-page spreads show the broader picture on the left-hand side (a ship being tossed in roiling waves, for example) and a detailed closeup on the right (the view from the ship’s deck). Krans’s focus on the father-daughter bond that is strengthened through play keeps this perilous migration tale upbeat and tender, with moments of lightness.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam

Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD in literary and cultrual studies, with a specialization in comparative contemporary postcolonial literature from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Southeast Asia. Her most recent work focuses on children's literature, stories about immigrants and refugees, and youth coping with disability.

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