Review posted September 8, 2023.
Harper, 2023. 36 pages.
Review written March 15, 2023, from a library book.
Finding Papa is a picture book based on the author's experiences as a small child when her Papa went ahead of them from Vietnam to America, and she and her mother traveled to join him in 1983.
Something I love about the book is that it authentically takes an older toddler or young preschooler's perspective. The pictures also portray her perfectly as that age, and it's all presented with as much as a small child can grasp. Here's the beginning:
Mai's favorite game to play with Papa was the crocodile chomp. When Papa went "Chomp! Chomp!" Mai would giggle and squeal. Crocodiles were scary, but Papa was not.
We see a happy toddler laughing as her Papa makes a crocodile mouth with his hands. This is repeated through the book, with Mai remembering Papa by making her hands go "Chomp! Chomp!"
At first, she's waiting for Papa, who doesn't come back after an extra-long hug goodbye. Then Mai and her Mama travel to go find Papa. They travel far to get to a boat, crowded with many people. Mai was still remembering Papa, wishing he were there. There was a storm, but after some time, the boat was rescued by a large ship and Mai and her mother climbed up a net to get into the ship. At a refugee camp, letters from Papa helped them find their way to America.
In America, Mai sees a man with a mustache she doesn't recognize. When he makes his hands do "Chomp! Chomp!" Mai remembers that crocodiles are scary, but Papa is not.
This is a very sweet story that authentically shows a very young child's experience as a refugee. It completely warmed my heart.