Author: Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Publisher: Pajama Press
Book source: review copy from publisher
From the publisher:
Tuyet used to dream of being adopted. But the orphanage in Saigon is full of perfect babies and younger children. Who would ever want an older girl who limps? Tuyet is resigned to caring for the babies, hoping that she will be allowed to stay if she continues to make herself useful. But then, in the closing days of the Vietnam War, everything changes. The city of Saigon is invaded and no one is safe. Tuyet and fifty-six other orphans are put on an airplane bound for Canada.
Tuyet finds a good friend in Linh, another refugee on the flight, who shares her hopes and fears on the long journey. Once they arrive in their new country, the babies, the younger children, and finally Linh are adopted, leaving Tuyet alone and frightened. If no one claims her, will she be allowed to earn her keep caring for other people's children? Or will she be lucky, like Linh, and find a new family?
That would make a wonderful story, even if it were completely made up. But it's not. Last Airlift is 100% nonfiction, and was written from extensive interviews Skrypuch conducted with Tuyet, her Canadian family, and many others involved in "Operation Babylift" at the end of the Vietnam war. The book is filled with copies of documents and heart-wrenching period photographs. At the same time, it reads like a novel, with characters and dialogue, bringing the experience of a young refugee vividly to life.
My favorite things about this book:
1) It's about a period of history that's relatively under-represented in children's literature.
2) It shows that Canadian culture is as strange to others as theirs is to us, via Tuyet's responses to her strange new world.
3) I can't stop staring at the photo of Tuyet on the cover. The expression on her face cuts right through me. (For contrast, check out the photo of grown-up Tuyet in the Author's Note).
Highly recommended to history fans, native North Americans interested in other cultures, and kids who love survival stories.
For more information on Marsha Skrypuch and her books, visit her website.