cover image My Father's Boat

My Father's Boat

Sherry Garland. Scholastic, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-590-47867-0

In this poignant tale, a Vietnamese American boy heads out into the Gulf of Mexico on his father's shrimp boat. He learns how to store shrimp in ice chests and to shake ""angry"" crabs from the nets. But more important, he hears his father tell stories of his own father, a shrimp fisherman on the South China Sea, and of the war that separated them: ""He could not leave the land he loved, and I could not stay."" Garland (The Lotus Seed) welds telling details of the sea, sky and fishing life into a powerful narrative engine that draws the reader into the deeper waters of unspoken sentiments. Her skillful, simply worded descriptions (""Over the water men's voices float, deep and hoarse, as if they haven't drunk their morning coffee yet"") are ably matched by Rand's (Baby in a Basket) sometimes impressionistic seascapes and realistic portraits. One particularly moving double-page spread shows the boy and his father facing the grandfather, worlds apart yet brought together by thought and memory. A haunting evocation of the aches and solaces of being a father and of being a son. Ages 5-8. (May)