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Wishes by Muon Thi Van & Victo Ngai

It’s not often – wait, no – It’s not ever, that I get to share a story without a single interruption. There was utter silence as I projected the illustrations of this work from the SMART Board while I read the text. Indeed, Kindergartners sat transfixed by the message so craftily told and illustrated.

Van and Ngai retell the harsh reality that so many migrants and refugees face; the experience of having to leave or flee one’s home in pursuit of another. The heartfelt wishes of the eldest child in this family, as she journey’s from her homeland, are personified through the various elements she meet. “The Night wished it was quieter.” ”The path wished it was shorter.” ”The boat wished it was bigger.” ” The heart wished it was stronger.”

The heart wished it was stronger.

As they drift in deteriorating conditions, a vessel appears in sight. The wishes of this little child come to an end as Ngai depicts the alacrity with which she holds on to the hands that rescue her and her family. I could hear sighs of relief and see bodies relax as I read on. Although I did request verbal feedback from my students after reading this book, it wasn’t necessary. Van and Ngai ardently shared their message. Kindergartners absolutely understood and felt, as best they could, what such an experience must have been like. Here are a few of their comments and questions.

“I can’t even believe that all those people had to be on that small boat and leave their houses in the dark. They look so scared and tired! I feel so sorry that that happened to them.”

“Tell me it ain’t true Ms. Barker! Why do people have to pack up their stuff and leave like that?” That is not right at all.”

“I’m happy at the end of the story because people on the ship helped the people on the boat and they got safe to America.”

“How can people stop from having to leave their homes?”

“Why did that mom have to leave her grandpa and go with the kids all by herself?”

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