Elem. – The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story

Lam, Thao. The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story. Owlkids Books, 2020. 978-1-771-47363-7. 40 p. $17.95. Grades K-3.

The Paper Boat, inspired by events that happened during the author’s childhood, is a wordless picture book. The story begins with a Vietnamese family eating a meal together at the table. Throughout the course of their meal, ants invade the table in search of crumbs. The young daughter saves the ants from drowning in her soup as her parents watch tanks rumble past the windows. In the dead of night, the family travels quietly in search of the escape boat that will take them away from their war-torn country. The daughter and her mother find themselves separated from the others. To soothe her frightened child, the mother makes a boat out of paper. All seems lost until a trail of ants appears and leads them to their escape boat where they are able to join the others. The paper boat, left behind by the daughter, becomes the escape boat for the little ants as they make their way to a new world just like the family.

THOUGHTS: Because this is a wordless book, the pictures must tell the story, and they do just that. The illustrations, which look to be paper cut outs, beautifully show the emotional and physical struggle the family faces as they leave the only home they have known. This book could be appropriate for students even at the intermediate level as the illustrations can spur deep conversations about the hardships of war and the parallels between ant and refugee travels. This stunning book is a must-have for elementary and intermediate libraries.

Picture Book           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD