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Goodbye, Vietnam Paperback – October 19, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Whelan's ( Bringing the Farmhouse Home ; Hannah ) latest novel examines the monumental struggle and privation that a group of people must endure to escape political and economic oppression in contemporary Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Mai is frightened and distraught to learn that her parents have planned to leave their home and secure passage to Hong Kong. But with hopes of freedom and prosperity to spur them on, Mai and her relatives cram themselves onto a barely seaworthy boat captained by a crusty, greedy man. The voyage is difficult at best: food and water are scarce; illness, lice, rats and blazing sun plague the debilitated passengers. When they finally reach Hong Kong, the challenges of a police inspection and a camp filled with thousands of other refugees await them. Although it chronicles many brutal realities, Whelan's story maintains an air of cool composure. Mai is the perfect narrator through whom to introduce a large cast of unusual, sympathetic characters; her emotional control and keen observations prove to be a source of calm in the storm that swirls around her. Readers will be introduced to elements of a new culture and made painfully aware of social conditions in other parts of the world. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8-- Since the grandmother faces arrest in present-day Vietnam for following the old religion and practicing healing, the Vinh family decides to flee their small rice-growing village in the Mekong Delta and escape by sea to Hong Kong. With his skills as a mechanic, the father has secured their passage on a small boat. In a first-person narrative, 13-year-old Mai relates their odyssey. Before boarding the boat, the Vinhs become acquainted with a female doctor and her daughter from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Whelan uses this relationship to set off Vietnamese rural life against the urban, the old traditions against the new. Perhaps because of this emphasis on imparting information, the plot is not as significant as it could be, and many of the characters are stock figures. Nonetheless, the book describes well the hardships many of America's newest refugees have endured and is one of the few accounts available on Vietnam's boat people. --Diane S. Marton, Arlington Coun ty Library, VA
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 810L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Bullseye Books ed edition (October 19, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067982376X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679823766
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
This book is a great read and has an amazing plot.
Amazon Customer
Readers learn some Vietnamese words as well as the traumas that took place during the Vietnamese diaspora to Hong Kong and beyond.
BeatleBangs1964
The author has the ability to take the reader into the story and keep the reader captivated.
Nancy Sue Buchanan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on April 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Mai, 13 lives in a small Vietnamese village. She has a sister, Anh, 9 and a brother Thant, 6. As the oldest, she had to leave school to work in the rice paddies to bring in extra income. Her family is strained financially; her father had been taken away by authorities and forced to serve a year in a prison work camp. The same threat is being issued to her grandmother. Authorities learned of her natural remedies, her healing powers and threatened to take her away permanently if she did not stop practicing her traditional remedies.

Hope comes in the form of her father's mechanic's tools. Those tools, he explains, will secure them passage on a boat to Hong Kong and out of Vietnam. Their uncle, who has successfully emigrated to Chicago and has also written them, telling them they can stay with him. Mai's father explains that the authorities cannot know that he has any job or skills other than farming. For the authorities to know he has skills in mechanics and has those tools will certainly mean imprisonment or death.

The day of escape has finally arrived. Mai and her family leave the village and everything they knew for an arduous, 2-day trek to the city where the boats are waiting. Readers walk every step of the way with them, reading with baited breath every time a jeep passes or someone in authority poses a threat. The grandmother uses ducks, traditional wisdom and old customs to get the family into the city, past the guards and the questioning.

Once in the city, families wait for their boats in makeshift camps. Many families have sold most if not all of their possessions just to secure passage on those boats.

When the boats do arrive, people are jammed into the boats, not unlike the slave ships during the mass exodus.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
I believe that this book is good for children because it explains things like sacrifice, suffering, and courage clearly. If a child reads this book, he or she will be interested because the principal character (a 13 years old) is telling the story. So, young readers can feel good witn this book, and also they learn about the true meaning of life. Finally, I would recomended that all children read this fantastic story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By retired te on June 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finally I found an adolescent novel written with Viet Nam as the setting. The characters will inspire your students to be brave and courageous in the face of adversity and danger. The author develops strength of family relations with characters from three generations. There is breath taking suspense to hold the attention of teenagers, and they will laugh at the antics of the grandmother. If you have students whose parents or grandparents came to America, this is a great way to start those conversations about their heritage and the ancestors who took a risk for their freedom. My only disappointment is.... there is no sequel!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a great read and has an amazing plot. I has taught me so much about what life looked like at that time and has inspired me to try harder. Love this book :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Reese Etheridge on October 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Goodbye Vietnam is a YA novel that tackles the subject of war and immigration with grace and sensitivity. After the Americans have left Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge are in control, Mai and her family must leave Vietnam in order to save her grandmother and father. Their journey takes them over the South China Sea on a crowded fishing boat into Hong Kong harbor where they are then warehoused until a country will take them or they are sent back to Vietnam where the leaders of the family will surely be killed.

The plot is suspenseful enough to keep middle schoolers entertained, but not so much that you (the teacher) feel like you're entertaining them. The story line has merit and lends itself to open discussion. The reading level is perfectly aligned for the complexity needed for 7th graders who are reading on grade level. Some vocabulary will need to be frontloaded or, if reading the novel aloud, discussed and explained as you encounter it. There are great opportunities for teaching connotation and denotation here.

All of the major characters are dynamic. They are likable; there are multiple opportunities to teach how the characters are shaped by their setting. You can track how the characters change over the course of the plot and how they are similar or different from other characters.

At least two of my students commented that they enjoyed reading the book (one a boy who does not read for pleasure~think typical reluctant reader). We read the entire novel in two weeks taking time to explore all of the basic elements of fiction. This story lent itself to several writing opportunities.

Definitely worth reading or recommending to middle schoolers.

Melissa
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
My friends were reading this book and they said it was good so I triend it and it is one of my favorite books now. This book is a story about a girl and how she escapes with her family to Hong Kong and then on to America. Its a have to read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
A 13 years old,Mai,and her family-father,mother, grandmother,her sister and brother-left their country,Vietnam,because the government wanted to arrest the grandmother and wanted the people work for them instead go to school,etc.Mai and her family left Veitnam by boat which had a lot of people.they spent a long time in the boat and lots of situations happened in that boat.Finally they found the land,Hong Kong,that they met other people from Vietmam.They stayed in the warehouse with other thousands people.It was a bad time there,however they could go to USA by supporting of their close reletive.
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