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The Buddha's Diamonds Hardcover – February 12, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–7—This graceful narrative is based in part on Niêm's childhood in Vietnam. Buddhist concepts are gently introduced and explained in the context of the story, but, more importantly, they are reflected in the tone and style. Tinh may be more spiritual than many of the youngsters in his village, but, at 10, he is still a child. He wants to play with his friends and he covets his cousin's fancy toys. At the same time, he has started to take on many adult responsibilities and is proud to work with his Ba catching fish to feed and support his family. When a storm hits his village, his father entrusts Tinh to secure their boat, but the boy panics and fails to do so. In reality, there was little that could have been done under the circumstances, but he clings to the hope that he can salvage it and win back his father's confidence. The sense of duty that he feels leads him to rethink his actions and his priorities. Cultural references are beautifully integrated into this lovely coming-of-age story.—Ernie Bond, Salisbury University, MD
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She held out two pieces of bamboo and some pink paper, a bit of string, and a bottle of glue.

"You brought everything," he said.

"I remembered what you needed."

Tinh stood on tiptoe and looked toward the soccer field. If there was a soccer game oing, he certainly didn't want to spend time with his sister. But it was probably too late to join the game. Plus his cousins would tease him for staying in the temple.

Tinh sat down on a low wall and fastened Lan's bamboo sticks into the shape of a cross. When the sticks were firmly tied, he held the skeleton of the kite to the sky, imagining it floating in the soft blue. Lan wiggled in anticipation. As Tinh lowered the bamboo to his lap and stretched the pink paper over the cross, he thought of how the next day his sister would run along the beach, flying this kite. Last summer, Tinh had also flown kites. But
when he'd turned ten at Lunar New Year, he'd left that childhood behind. Now, during the long days of summer vacation, it was his job to help Ba with the fishing.

"Hold here," he said to Lan.

Lan put her small finger on the paper while Tinh glued.

"You need more string for a tail," he said when the paper was in place. "And some bits of cloth to tie on to the string."

Just then, Tinh heard the shouts of Trang Ton, Dong, and Anh and then someone shushing them. Then, Tinh heard another sound-like a giant mosquito. He stood up to look. Zooming ahead of the four boys came a miniature red car. Tinh stepped back. The car drove itself. It ran up the dusty path and across the flagstones of the courtyard as if by magic.

The little kids stopped their war games to watch. Adults leaned out the temple doors, fingers to their lips.

"Want to try, Tinh?" Trang Ton held out a small gray box. "Here, you just push this button to go forward, this one to go back. These"-he touched two more buttons-make the car go left and right."

Tinh reached for the remote control. It was heavier than it looked. He tapped the button on the left, and the car drove toward a palm tree. He maneuvered the car around the base of the tree. He drove it to the edge of the stone steps, then backed it up. He loved the feeling of power in his hands.

"Now it's my turn," said Phu, one of Trang Ton's younger cousins.

Tinh handed over the box. This car was a diamond the monk didn't know about. No one in the village could afford a remote controlled car. Trang Ton had an uncle who'd escaped by boat to America. That uncle worked in an office and sent back money and gifts like the soccer ball and the car. The uncle's generosity enabled Trang Ton's family to live in a brick house instead of a hut made of bamboo.

The bell sounded three times, and Phu held his finger over the remote control, poised for action. All eyes were on the red car, now half submerged in a pile of faded bougainvillea flowers. The vibrations stopped, and Phu backed the car up.

The adults emerged from the temple, talking and laughing among themselves. As the nuns spread a feast of fruit on a long table set up in the courtyard, Tinh turned his attention from Trang Ton's red car. He loaded his arms with vanilla mangoes, finger bananas, a stick of sugarcane, and a bunch of longan. He plucked a round longan fruit from the stem and sunk his teeth into the hard skin. The fruit burst open, white and sweet.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 710L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763633801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763633806
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,552,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carolyn Marsden grew up in Mexico City and Southern California. Although she wrote for adults for many years, she began to write for children after the birth of her daughters. She attended Vermont College and earned an MFA in Writing for Children. Her first book, The Gold-Threaded Dress, published by Candlewick, was a Booklist Top Ten Youth Novel of 2002. Her second novel, Silk Umbrellas, was a Texas Bluebonnet nominee and Booklist Top Ten Art Novel of 2003. Since then, Carolyn has published more award-winning middle grade chapter books with Candlewick, Viking, and Carolrhoda, almost all with multicultural themes. Starfields (Candlewick 2011), touches on the 2012 prophesy. The White Zone is set in contemporary Iraq. Carolyn's next book, My Own Revolution, will be released by Candlewick on October 9, and takes place in 1960s Czechoslovakia. Carolyn lives with her Thai husband and two half-Thai daughters.

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Format: Hardcover
Ten-year-old Tinh lives in a small fishing village with his parents and younger sister. The rhythm of life is the rhythm of the sea, which provides sustenance for the villagers. Just this year Tinh has started accompanying his father in their boat to catch and net the fish that are eaten and traded for other foods and goods. Part of Tinh misses time spent flying kites with his sister Lan and playing soccer with his cousins, but he's a serious and hard-working boy, proud to be of use to his family and eager to earn his father's respect.

Tinh is also naturally spiritual. He has a deep love and respect for his ancestors, the Buddha and especially Phat Ba Quan Ahm, the Vietnamese Bodhisattva of Compassion. He knows that her many arms protect him and others at sea and that her name will comfort him when he's scared.

Tinh's faith and maturity are put to the test one day when a terrible storm comes, driving the fishermen from the water and ravaging much of the poor village. As the men and boys struggle to secure the fishing boats on the beach, Lan is injured, cut by a piece of metal trying to rouse Tinh, who is laying afraid on the sand. He finally gets up and sees his parents rushing his bleeding sister off, his father yelling at him to make sure the boat is tied up. Tinh is surrounded by chaos, and there's no one to help him. He's alone and terrified, but he's also scared of disappointing his father and losing the family boat. When a giant wave pushes the boat into the trees, Tinh runs for his hut.

The family huddles together during the worst of the storm, praying before the home altar. When the next day dawns, the village is in shambles, his sister is taken to the doctors and the boat is discovered, damaged underneath a pile of other boats.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on October 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As an older boy living in one of Vietnam's poor coastal villages, Tinh had reached an age when he could start helping his father with the fishing at sea. Not only did the fish provide the family with their main source of nourishment, it also served as their primary means of earning cash in the marketplace. Although Tinh felt happy to be entrusted with such an important responsibility, he also missed playing soccer all day with his friends and flying a kite with his sister. As a deeply spiritual boy, Tinh constantly questioned his own actions and motives. He wanted to do the next right thing, especially when it came to pleasing his demanding father, but he felt confused when the naïveté of childhood pulled him in the opposite direction.

This conflict within grew to enormous proportions one day when a terrible cyclone struck while he and his father were out fishing. Instructed by his father to secure the boat after they made it back to the beach, Tinh became overwhelmed and left the boat to the mercy of the storm. Once the storm subsided, Tinh despaired at the wreckage left behind, his sister's injury, and his failure to meet his father's expectations.

Based on a true story, The Buddha's Diamonds explores the spiritual awakening that Tinh experiences as he struggles to come to terms with the harsh realities of natural disaster, extreme poverty, and post-war conditions. The graceful text and meaningful lessons should place this book at the top of any list of multicultural books for middle-grade readers.
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