Book Review: A Different Pond


A Different Pond

Written by Bao Phi

Illustrated by Thi Bui

34 pages

Published by Capstone (Picture Window Books)

Publication date: 1st August 2017

Age range: All ages

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Acclaimed poet Bao Phi delivers a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son and between cultures, old and new. A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event–a long-ago fishing trip. As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. The New York Times has said that Bao Phi’s poetry “rhymes with the truth.” Together with graphic novelist Thi Bui’s striking, evocative art, Phi’s expertly crafted prose reflects an immigrant family making its way in a new home while honoring its bonds to the past.

A kid of school said my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river.

But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.

This is a beautiful book with evocative illustrations and poetic language. It provides the perspective of a Vietnamese family who has immigrated to America and is told through a son and father going for a fishing trip.

I liked how the palette of colour used in the illustrations changes depending on the setting, with warm earth colours used for the scenes at home and cool blues used for the outdoor, night-time scenes.

I loved the small references to the hardship his father must have faced, the war that was his reason to leave. Both father and mother of the family work hard, but the fish is still necessary for them to eat. The references to the country his father came from and the comments his schoolmates make about English not being his father;s native tongue – all of these are experiences many children of immigrants will be familiar with.

I think it is important for stories such as these to be widely shared so children can learn about other perspectives and see themselves in the books they read.

Dad smiles, his teeth broken and white in the dark, because we have a few fish and he knows we will eat tonight.

I look at the trees as we walk back to the car.

I wonder what those other tress look like at that other pond, in the country my dad comes from.


What I liked: Beautiful illustrations, poetic language, subject matter – immigration, strong family relationships.

Even better if: Would love to see more from this perspective.

How you could use it in your classroom: I will be reading it with my class and using it to spark discussion about immigration, culture and language. In the U.K. at the moment, as in many countries across the world, immigration is increasingly common and children are often aware that there is a reason for people to leave their homes and move to another country. However, most may not think about the true implications that can have. I hope that books such as these can help children to understand the trials many immigrants and refugees have been through and become more empathetic.

(Thank you to Netgalley and Rock the Boat Publishing/ Capstone Publishing for my e-review copy)

While you’re here, why not check out my reviews of House Without Walls, No Ballet Shoes in Syria, Mira’s Curly Hair, Stuck, Home Sweet Home or Together We Can?

Find me on Twitter , Goodreads or Instagram

Thanks for reading!


22 Comments Add yours

  1. This is such a thoughful, sensitive book. I really need to get my own copy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would definitely recommend it 🙂


  2. I added this one to my wish list for when I have the budget to make another purchase for our library. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Caldecott Honor book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is lovely – deceptively simple but with so much to unpack!


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