Today Chasing Ray hosts the One Shot World Tour, focusing on books set in Southeast Asia. It gives me the perfect opportunity to mention a book I received a while ago, and then forgot. Which happens more than I’d care to say.
Looking over this region would be woefully incomplete without including books by Carolyn Marsden. She’s written about girls from and in Thailand, China, and Vietnam. When Heaven Fell is set in present-day Vietnam with a girl, Binh, who sells fruit and sodas from a cart instead of going to school. Her family can’t afford the cost of the uniform and books, and her tiny earnings make a difference in how much the family can eat that day. She looks enviously at the girls heading to school and longingly at her older cousin’s dress which she’ll receive as a hand-me-down. Her family lives life on the edge, dependent on the smallest amount of money.
When Binh’s grandmother announces that her long-lost daughter is coming for a visit from America, all the relatives begin to dream about all the gifts that will flow their way. Knowing that America is a land of riches, they expect to find themselves saved from their abject poverty by this woman that Ba Ngoai gave up after the war with America. But after all their expectations, can this lost child of Vietnam be the person they want her to be especially when she is there looking for the mother and childhood that was ripped from her?
Written for elementary school students, When Heaven Fell is a wonderful view of life in Vietnam. The characters are engaging and real, all with their own flaws and blind spots. While not focusing on the war with Vietnam, the author gives a look into the conflict from the point of the innocent victims. The reader also gets to see an impression of America from afar.
For many more books on Southeast Asia, head over to the One Shot Round-up at Chasing Ray.