Bao Phi’s first children’s book was released in August 2017. This simple story was illustrated by Thi Bui and was a 2018 Caldecott Honor Book. For this story, Phi drew from his own childhood memories of fishing with his father on a lake in Minnesota. Phi’s family escaped Vietnam when he was still a child. Once he had a daughter of his own, her realized there was a gap in children’s literature, especially in the representation of Asian-American characters. He decided to write a children’s book that mirrored his own childhood.
The story starts with a young boy being woken by his father in the morning early in the morning. The father took his son fishing, but not just fishing for fun. They were fishing for food. During this time the boy’s father shares pieces of his memories from life in Vietnam. After the boy’s parents both go to work on a Saturday, they come home and cook dinner. This meal includes the fish the boy and his father had caught that morning. the family is all together and full of joy. That night when the boy goes to sleep, he dreams of the kind of pond his father fished in back at Vietnam and what it looked like.
The illustrations utilize several different formats to help guide the story. There are multiple images on each page. Some are full page spreads with smaller images on the sides or in the corners. Other pages are framed images that together take up the whole page. By placing multiple images on each page, there is an illustration to match almost each part of the text. Not only are there numerous images on each page, but the text is divided up on each page. The location of the text matched the image or part of image the text described. Different text structures were also utilized to help keep the readers engaged in the text and the images. These images are all very intentionally created to help foreshadow and share more about the characters than the text alone share. The images are all clear and mirror the simplicity of the story while taking it to the next level. The illustrator seems to capture the meaning of the story and the familial relationships the author is conveying. Overall, I highly suggest this book for a sweet and simple story and well composed illustrations.
-Anna Lee McLean