During the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Van wakes up one morning to find that her mother, her sisters Loan and Lan, and her brother Tuan are gone. They have escaped the new communist regime that has taken over Ho Chi Minh City for freedom in the West. Four-year-old Van is too young--and her grandmother is too old--for such a dangerous journey by boat, so the two have been left behind. Once settled in North America, her parents will eventually be able to sponsor them, and Van and her grandmother will fly away to safety. But in the meantime, Van is forced to work hard to satisfy her aunt and uncle, who treat her like an unwelcome servant. And at school she must learn that calling attention to herself is a mistake, especially when the bully who has been tormenting her turns out to be the son of a military policeman.
Van Ho's true story strikes at the heart and will resonate with so many families affected by war, where so many children are forced to live under or escape from repressive regimes.
About Too Young to Escape: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to be Reunited with Her Family
2018 CBC Books "13 Canadian middle-grade books to watch for this fall" selection
2018 CBC Books "12 Canadian books to commemorate Remembrance Day" selection
STARRED REVIEW "The story is told from Van's childhood perspective, with age-appropriate vocabulary and emotional heft. But readers of all ages will be immediately drawn to the simple, direct narration....[T]he authors eschew sentimentality and sensationalism, creating a straightforward autobiography that is truthful about resilience and the often unpredictable ways children act and react."—Quill & Quire Starred Review
"As a work of fragmented and painful memories from the time Van was between the ages of four and eight, the narrative is impressively credible, capturing her feelings of confused abandonment, visceral descriptions of her life in Ho Chi Minh City, and gradual adjustment to being separated from her immediate family. Also well integrated are the family's hardened cynicism towards the communist government and their determination to forge on despite poverty and corruption. Family photographs and appended interviews with both Van's parents add a particular poignancy to her narrative."—Booklist
"With simple but engaging language, Skrypuch recounts Van Ho's true story of her lonely and hard life in Vietnam during the years she was separated from her family....This illuminating chapter book respects an often overlooked demographic, providing transitioning readers a truthful yet age-appropriate introduction to big issues that still affect people to this day."—Kirkus Reviews
"[A]n extremely engaging account of a childhood in challenging circumstances....Too Young to Escape is a welcome reminder of the post-Vietnam War refugee crisis that saw Canada, France, the United States and Australia welcome strangers in need. Readers will appreciate hearing this personal story from a child's perspective....Van's story and those of her family members remain timeless as well as time-specific. Highly Recommended.”—CM Magazine
"The first-person narrative should hold readers riveted...The importance of family shines through this compelling memoir, and a series of color photographs adds to the emotional impact."—Youth Services Book Review
"Van Ho, who lived this story, tells it through Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's pen of extraordinary writing which reflects both Van’s youthful point of view and her trauma. Her story is disquieting but it's also uplifting, focusing on Van's resilience."—CanLit for LittleCanadians