Planet Picture Book


A new destination, a new book search. It’s different every time. From my notes, it looks like I typed ‘Vietnamese picture books’ in Google and went from there. So how did I decide on my final selection? Read on and you’ll discover a little about my unique research methods!

I initially found a lot of bilingual Vietnamese/English picture books through my Google search, but most of the titles appeared to have been written in English and then translated. I also found a range of picture books about Vietnam, or set in Vietnam, by non-Vietnamese author/illustrators. They weren’t quite what I was looking for.

Then, I read about the Scholastic (Asia) Picture Book Award which is presented every two years to ‘an outstanding unpublished picture book with distinct Asian themes by an Asian team of writer and illustrator’. The winner in 2015 was The First Journey by Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien, a creative couple based in Ho Chi Minh City. As part of their prize, Scholastic would consider their manuscript for publication. And guess what? The First Journey is now available in print in both English and Vietnamese editions. Bingo! Plus – and I’m really very excited about this part – I contacted Quang and Lien and they kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the creative process behind their first beautiful picture book.

The second title for this leg of our journey came indirectly through a blog I stumbled on during another of my Google searches. I scrolled down to the bottom of blogger Jolene’s recommended reads for Vietnam (there look to be some goodies amongst the novels too) and I found a few children’s titles listed. The first was Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories retold by Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, illustrated by Nguyen Thi Hop and Nguyen Dong. When I ran a search using the author’s name, I discovered another picture book by the same team, My First Book of Vietnamese Words. The focus on Vietnamese language and culture in this second book, as well as the gorgeous artwork, really sold it to me.

I have to mention one additional title before completing this post: A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (Capstone Young Readers, 2017) about a young Vietnamese immigrant boy’s early morning fishing trip with his father in Minneapolis. So much has been written about this recently released title, I don’t feel I can add any more! But I am proud to own a copy of this gorgeous picture book and I highly recommend it to you.

Here are the two titles I have selected for the Vietnamese leg of our journey:

The First Journey by Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien (Scholastic, 2017)

My First Book of Vietnamese Words by Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, illustrated by Nguyen Thi Hop and Nguyen Dong (Tuttle Publishing, 2017)

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

[Image: Mekong Delta by Malingering, made available under a creative commons licence. Source:]

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