Butterfly Yellow

Harper. Sept. 2019. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062229212.
Gr 9 Up–After the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War, hundreds of children were airlifted from Vietnam to the United States. Hang saw to it that her three-year-old brother Linh was one of these children, though at the airport she’s shocked to discover she’s too old to accompany him. Six years later, 18-year-old Hang arrives in Texas, where her uncle and his family live, carrying an address, the only connection she has to her brother. Although her uncle promises that he will take her to the address in Amarillo, she cannot wait. She catches a bus and eventually a ride with LeeRoy, who is headed to Amarillo to meet his rodeo hero. When they arrive, Linh does not remember her and wants nothing to do with her. LeeRoy and Hang get jobs at a neighboring ranch where she tries to connect with her brother and LeeRoy tries to learn how to be a cowboy. Hang and LeeRoy, as well as the other main characters, have complex personalities that often clash. Hang’s English dialogue, written in Vietnamese syllables, has to be sounded out by readers and can be difficult to interpret, though it becomes clearer when LeeRoy repeats what she says. The plot has a nice blend of external and internal action although some knowledge of the Vietnam War would make for better understanding of Hang’s trauma.
VERDICT While this is not Lai’s strongest book, the universal truths about the lingering aftermath of war make it one that will find readers

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