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Vietnam: The Country, the People and the Vietnam War

In this collection of picture books and chapter books, children can learn about the rich culture and history of Vietnam through folktales, a photographic journey, an ABC book, historical fiction, and true-life stories. We've also included children's books about the Vietnam War and the experiences of immigrants who came to the U.S. during and after the war.

These books can help children understand many of the themes explored in the 2017 Ken Burns documentary, The Vietnam War (broadcast on your local PBS station), and provide some context for conversations that older siblings, parents, and other adults are having about the film.

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

Angel Child, Dragon Child

By: Michele Maria Surat
Illustrated by: Vo Dinh Mai
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Ut has come to America, but her mother remains in Vietnam. Ut's struggle to adjust to her new life and her classmates don't accept her because she is different. Then she makes a new friend who presents Ut with a wonderful gift

Children of the Dragon: Selected Tales from Vietnam

By: Sherry Garland
Illustrated by: Trina Schart Hyman
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Learn why the tiger has stripes, what happens to those who behave badly, and much more in this rich collection. The lore of Southeast Asia comes to life in strong retellings complemented by jewel-toned illustrations.

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam

By: Cynthia Kadohata
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This realistic story of America's war in Vietnam uses the alternating viewpoints of an army dog named Cracker and her 17-year-old handler, Rick Hanski. From their training at a base in the U.S. to their stalking the enemy, the tale explores the close bond of the scout-dog team, relating how it detects booby traps and mines, finds the enemy, rescues POWs, and returns home to a heroes' welcome. [ALA Booklist review]

DK Eyewitness Books: Vietnam War

By: Stuart A.P. Murray
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Explore the people, places, battles, and weapons of America's war in Vietnam. From the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the Viet Cong to the war's aftermath, discover the Vietnam War, why America went to war in Indochina, and who fought there.

Going Home, Coming Home/ Ve Nha, Tham Que Huong

By: Truong Tran
Illustrated by: Ann Phong
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

American born Ami Chi is traveling to Vietnam, where the streets are crowded with scooters and the fruit are shaped like dragons and stars. Her parents still consider Vietnam home. But how can home be a place you’ve never been? She finds her answer in the green rice paddies that blanket the countryside, in the bustling Cho Lon market, and in the quiet rooms of her grandmother’s house. Vietnam may be nothing like America, but it feels strangely familiar. Before long, Ami Chi finds that you can travel very far and still find yourself at home.

Grandfather's Dream

By: Holly Keller
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The Vietnam war is over, and Grandfather and young Nam dream that the new dikes will restore the wetlands, bringing home the beautiful cranes that once filled the winter sky. But other villagers think that growing rice is a more practical use for the land.

Inside Out and Back Again

By: Thanhha Lai
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Inspired by the author's childhood experience as a refugee — fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama — this coming-of-age novel told in verse offers a child's-eye view of family and immigration.

Listen, Slowly

By: Thanhha Lai
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Twelve-year old Mai is reluctant to travel with her grandmother from California to Vietnam to learn more about her roots and to help Ba, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai struggles to understand the language and culture of her family's heritage in this poignant, often funny novel of being part of two cultures.

Little Cricket

By: Jackie Brown
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When North Vietnamese soldiers destroy the village of 12-year-old Kia, they almost destroy her family too, because her father disappears and the rest of them flee to a refugee camp. Eventually, Kia, her brother, and her grandfather immigrate to America, where she is overwhelmed by her new life, isolated by culture and language. [ALA Booklist review]

Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam

By: Walter Dean Myers
Genre: Fiction, Poetry, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a gripping and powerful story-poem, the award-winning author takes readers into the heart and mind of a young soldier in an alien land who comes face-to-face with the enemy.

Shooting the Moon

By: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Twelve-year-old Jamie Dexter and her brother, TJ, have grown up with the Army: their dad is a colonel. TJ has enlisted and is heading off to war in Vietnam. But then TJ, a photographer, begins to send her rolls of film to develop that gradually reveal the horrors of what he’s seen. The novel invites young people to reflect on the many shades of gray that Jamie confronts. [ALA Booklist review]

Sweet Dried Apples: A Vietnamese Wartime Childhood

By: Rosemary Breckler
Illustrated by: Deborah Kogan Ray
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In wartime Vietnam, a young girl helps her grandfather who is an herbalist. She and her younger brother gather and dry herbs under his supervision and while he is away. One day, the elderly man returns, announcing that the war is coming to their village. Grandfather ministers to its victims and yet he dies himself. The siblings and their mother flee by boat and the girl vows to return to honor her beloved relative. [School Library Journal review]

Ten Mice for Tet!

By: Cynthia Weill
Illustrated by: Ngoc Trang, Vo Dinh Mai
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

This vibrant counting book introduces children to the rich traditions of the Vietnamese New Year. A playful village of mice lead young readers through the joyful celebration, as embroidered illustrations recreate ten scenes of preparation, gift giving, feasting, and firework displays.

The Dragon Prince: Stories and Legends from Vietnam

By: Thich Nhat Hanh
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This collection of 15 stories and legends from Vietnam retold by Zen master poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh emphasize themes of cooperation and reconciliation, while providing a rich introduction to the mythical elements of Vietnamese culture. Imaginary characters weave through the lives of actual persons and events, blending fiction and nonfiction, magic and fantasy. 

The Lotus Seed

By: Sherry Garland
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When she is forced to leave Vietnam, a young girl brings a lotus seed with her to America in remembrance of her homeland.

The Walking Stick

By: Maxine Trottier
Illustrated by: Annouchka Gravel Galouchko
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Van, a young Vietnamese boy, is given a brass-tipped teak walking stick made by his uncle (a monk), who says that now the Buddha "will watch over you no matter where you go, and bring you safely home." Van carries the stick with him always, even when he and his family flee their war-torn country and cross the ocean. On long walks years later, he tells his granddaughter stories of his homeland. She travels to Vietnam and leaves the stick as an offering at the foot of a Buddha.

The Wall

By: Eve Bunting, Ronald Himler
Illustrated by: Ronald Himler, Eve Bunting
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A boy describes the trip he takes with his father to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Together, they look for the name of his grandfather, who died before he was born.

Two Lands, One Heart: An American Boy's Journey to His Mother's Vietnam

By: Ted Wood, Jeremy C. Schmidt
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In 1975 TJ's mother was only a chid when she escaped war-torn Vietnam and came to America. Almost 20 years later, she took her eldest son back to meet the family he had never known and to experence firsthand the country and the culture she left behind. A true-life story told in full-color photographs.

Vietnam A to Z

By: Elka K. Ray
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

With lively illustrations and bilingual English and Vietnamese text, this colorful ABC book introduces Vietnam's culture to young readers.

Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories

By: Phuoc Thi Minh Tran
Illustrated by: Hop Thi Nguyen, Dong Nguyen
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

These 15 stories reflect the traditions, myths, and history of Vietnam, with trees and flowers frequently serving symbolic purposes. Works such a The Story of Tam and Cam, an adaptation of Cinderella, will be familiar to readers, while a story about why the sea is salty will be new to many. [Publishers Weekly review]

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