The Yellow Áo Dài

Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250842060.
K-Gr 3–Naliah, a little girl of Vietnamese heritage, is excited for her school’s international festival, and eager to share a traditional Vietnamese Fan Dance with her classmates; she is dismayed to discover, though, that she has outgrown her special áo dài, and her mother’s is so large that she trips on it and rips it during practice. Naliah is afraid she is in trouble, but instead her mother sews a patch over the rip and tells her the áo dài’s legacy as being one her grandmother wore. Bui’s debut picture book is inspired by her daughter and mother-in-law. Her hope in an author’s note is that “all children recognize that their family stories matter and see themselves between the pages of the books they read.” Vietnamese culture is beautifully honored through Phan’s expressive, cheerful watercolors. Naliah’s joy and fear are clear on her face and the áo dàis are rich with details. A glossary is included at the end defining some of the words and cultural celebrations.
VERDICT Naliah’s story teaches readers about the importance of family and culture in forming identity. Purchase where books on identity and culture circulate well; this would pair especially well with Eva Chen’s I Am Golden, Joanna Ho’s Eyes that Kiss in the Corners, and Nabela Noor’s Beautifully Me.

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