It's 1982, Vonlai is 12, wants to build skyscrapers and loves playing soccer. Typical 12-year old stuff with one difference. Vonlai and his family escaped Communist Laos in the middle of the night down the Mekong River passed armed soldiers and are now in a refugee camp in Thailand. He is constantly hungry, he lives in a hut, and his sister is in danger. He still plays soccer, but in a field of rocks. How can he and his family survive to make it to the United States?
This book made me think about how I was living in 1982 and wondered if I knew people could be enduring situations like this. While 1982 may be ancient history to kids reading this book, hopefully they will connect with what they have in common with Vonlai, and see how things like soccer, coke and dog food are part of a different reality for him. Hopefully they will wonder about, or become more aware of, the difficult lives of many kids their age. Kids just like them.
Stuck in limbo, an in-between camp of the unwanted. That's where Vonlai and his family have found themselves. They fled their homeland of Laos because they doubted their chances of survival at the hands of the Pathet Lao government, nearly dying crossing the Mekong River in the middle of the night. Fled to Thailand, a country that didn't want them but provided space for refugee camps, waiting to see if nations like the U.S. or France might reluctantly take them in.
Life in refugee camp limbo consists of waiting in little half-buildings, the entire family sharing one bed, barely surviving on minimal rice and a bit of meat delivered once a week. Limited, shared water from a well, no electricity or any other convenience. Playing soccer to pass the time, hoping to learn useful things from each other without getting irritated or violent. Hoping to keep hoping, because that's all they have.
A tense, moving book that makes tangible the experience of Vonlai and his family.
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