FICTION

Last Airlift

A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War
Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War. 120p. photos. further reading. index. Web sites. CIP. Pajama. 2012. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-0-9869495-4-8. LC 20119054221.
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Gr 3–6—Tuyet had little memory of her life before going to the orphanage where, at eight, she was one of the oldest children. She ate fish and rice, drank water, and could not remember ever seeing the sky. Her scars were from burns and injuries she could not remember, and polio left her leg weak. In April 1975, Tuyet's life changed forever as she became part of the last Canadian airlift operation to leave Saigon. Along with 56 babies and toddlers, Tuyet was flown first to Hong Kong and then to Canada where she was adopted by a loving family, something she had never known. The author tells Tuyet's story with respect and dignity, introducing readers to a brave girl caught up in the turbulent times of her country, her fears of leaving what she knew, and the joy of finding a new life. Archival and family photos are included throughout, as are a historical note explaining the circumstances surrounding the airlift and an author's note with follow-up information about Tuyet. Her story will appeal to a broad range of readers.—Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
In 1975 Saigon, missionaries evacuated vulnerable disabled orphans who would be killed; Tuyet, eight, lame from polio, helps get over fifty tiny orphans flown to Canada, where she shows new caregivers how to comfort them. Skrypuch's third-person re-creation of these transitional months makes vivid the uncertainties of confronting a new language, climate, and family. Illustrated with photos. Reading list, websites. Ind.
As the North Vietnamese entered Saigon, missionaries rushed to evacuate the most vulnerable orphans: healthy ones might find new homes, but "children with disabilities -- like Tuyet -- would be killed." Tuyet, eight, lame from polio, has cared for babies for as long as she can remember. With her help, fifty or so of these tiny orphans are loaded, two to a box, for what proved to be the last such flight to Canada; once there, it is Tuyet who shows their new caregivers that the wailing infants awaiting adoption could be comforted by letting them sleep together on blankets spread on the floor, as they’d always been -- an emotional need she shares, as her adoptive family realizes after Tuyet spends a sleepless night alone in her new bedroom. A concluding note describes the return of Tuyet’s memories during conversations with the author, whose third-person re-creation of these transitional months in 1975 makes vivid the uncertainties of confronting a new language, climate, and family. Tuyet’s initial misapprehensions are telling (those points of light in the Canadian sky aren’t bombs but stars), as is her cautious, unfailingly courteous approach to a life that includes such unfamiliar things as play and ample food. Fortunately, her adoptive family is not only well-meaning but loving, creative, and sensitive. An excellent first step on the ladder that leads to such fine immigrant tales as Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again (rev. 3/11). Illustrated with photos. Notes; further resources; index. joanna rudge long

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