A Different Pond is a quiet book and a simple, gentle story about an urban fishing trip for a boy and his dad before daybreak. It’s a love letter to a father, a celebration of family and Vietnamese culture, and a sneak peek into the immigrant experience through the eyes of a child.
But it’s so much more than that. A Different Pond is a work of beauty and a nostalgic, relevant story for millions of Minnesotans whose childhood memories include quiet moments casting for crappies with their fathers.
Phi is a poet. The subtle beauty of his words captivate the attentive reader:
A kid at my school said
my dad’s English sounds like
a thick, dirty river.
But to me his English
sounds like gentle rain.
I feel the bag of
like silver arrows
in my hands.
Thi Bui is a graphic artist. Her illustrations are dark and real—capturing broken teeth and expressions of hard work, worry, and joy. I especially loved the endsheets, dotted with tiny images of 1970’s era icons that would intrigue any observant newcomer to America—Jello molds, casseroles, Miracle Whip and Adidas sneakers. Of course, they reflect the time and the cultural artifacts that characterized it. For Bui, the images of ‘70s memorabilia are both a nod to Maurice Sendak—who collected childhood mementos and filled his illustrations with them—and to her own Vietnamese American experience as a youth and the odd details that marked it.
The book closes with personal stories and family photographs from the author and illustrator. They give us a glimpse into their lives and experiences as Vietnamese Americans. But they are just that, a glimpse. The reader knows that Phi and Bui hold many more stories inside. And someday we hope they will share them with us.