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Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy (Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (Awards)) Hardcover – August 26, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-9–Warren relates the story of the 1975 Operation Babylift as seen through the eyes of Long, an eight-year-old Amerasian boy who was part of the airlift. The author uses narrative and reconstructions of conversations from interviews with those involved to trace Long's life, beginning with his indistinct memories of his American father and his more vivid recollections of his Vietnamese mother's suicide and his grandmother's struggle to protect and support him during wartime. She describes his stay at the Saigon orphanage operated by Holt International Children's Services, which housed, schooled, and arranged for his adoption by an American family. Long recalls the fear and excitement during the fall of Saigon, his journey out of Vietnam, his sorrow at the separation from his grandmother, and his emotional transition to his new identity as Matt Steiner. The book concludes with a moving account of Matt's 1995 return to Vietnam, where he finally understood the magnitude of the sacrifice his grandmother made for his safety and future. Photos of Long in both Vietnam and America illustrate the text. Although Warren mentions the cruelties of the communist Vietnamese government and America's abandonment of its South Vietnamese allies, this is a personal story, one that is so well written that it will be sure to hold readers' attention. An outstanding choice.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Junior High School, MO
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 5-12. At the end of the Vietnam War, eight-year-old Amerasian orphan named Long fled his country and found a loving home with his adoptive family in Ohio. With a new name, Matt Steiner, he grew up to be high-school valedictorian and athletic star, and now he is a doctor with his own happy family. But this stirring photo-essay is more than a rags-to-riches story. Always true to the child's viewpoint, Warren's clear narrative, with many documentary photos, begins as the boy struggles to survive in Vietnam, then describes the anguish of his abandonment by a loving grandmother no longer able to care for him; the kindness of rescuers at the orphanage, who arranged his adoption; and his terrifying evacuation on a plane under fire. The child-at-war story and the facts about the Operation Babylift rescue are tense and exciting. Just as gripping is the boy's personal conflict: his struggle to become American; his attempt to deny his sadness at what he left behind; and, finally, his pride in his roots ("I will never forget that my American heart is half Vietnamese"). Framing the biography is fascinating information, including Warren's account of the evacuation of her own adopted baby daughter on Operation Babylift; discussion about international adoption and Amerasian children; and a lengthy annotated list of sources. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 15 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 930L (What's this?)
  • Series: Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374322244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374322243
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #733,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Latus on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I read this straight through on an airplane and had to turn away from my seatmates so they wouldn't see me cry. As usual, Warren has written a compelling, evocative story about one child's experience, and in it has distilled an era and a place. The main character, Long, suffers through poverty and loss, then winds up in an orphanage where he vaccilates between grief over the loss of his own family and hope for a new mother. I got tears in my eyes as he said good-bye to his grandmother, who was his last surviving family member, and then again when he learned he had a new home in America. As a reader I felt his excitement and anxiety as the day approached when he would see his new family, and then his fear as the war moved from the countryside to the streets of his city. The drive to the bombed airport and the flight on the transport plane were terrifying, followed immediately by the joy as Long ran into the arms of his new mother. This story will stick with readers, both adults and children, leaving a personalized image of an otherwise hard-to-comprehend world event.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the true story of a young Ameriasian boy finds a new family in the United States. Being the son of a Vietnamese woman and an American man puts Long in a difficult position. Because of the war, many do not see Americans with an unbiased eye. When Long loses his mother and his grandmother can no longer support him, he goes to live in an orphanage run by a nonprofit organization from the United States. As the Communists get ever closer it, Holt International (the group running the orphanage) decides they must get the children out without delay (most of the children have been placed for adoption). The book follows the remarkable operation known as Babylift which helped get over two thousand children out of Saigon before the Communists arrived. The rest of the story follows Long's (Matt) experiences in adjusting to a new family and a new life.

This book beautifully compliments Inside Out & Back Again, giving the reader a glimpse of the Vietnam War from the perspective of a child. It also reveals that some good things were done by Americans as well as all the bad things we always here about happening during that war. The writing is clear and crisp and perfect for reading out-loud. This book gives the reader, especially a child reader, a chance to see some of the things that children experience around the world, and hopefully better appreciate the good things about living in the United States.
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Format: Hardcover
If you've loved Warren's earlier books about children surviving in difficult new circumstances (the two Orphan trains books, Surviving Hitler, and the one about the girl growing up on the prairie) you'll love this one, too. In this one, Long, the young hero, is half Vietnamese, half American. His survival depends on a pivotal airlift of Vietnamese orphans "tainted by the blood of the enemy" as the North Vietnamese are about to take over Saigon. But even before that the reader is caught up in the story of Long's mother and grandmother struggling to survive in a wartorn country.

The story works on one level for children and on another for adults -conveying how America's withdrawal from Vietnam affects the family of a boy whose young life is shaped by war. It has all the virtues of nonfiction wrapped up in a charming, moving, and compelling story. Adults and children may want to read this one together. It's a tribute to parenting, in whatever form it comes, and to the resilience of children.
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Format: Hardcover
Once you start reading, you probably won't be able to put it down. This is an amazing story, with wonderful photographs. I cried twice and made my husband read it. He loved it too!

Teachers will find this useful in the classroom, for teaching about the war in Vietnam, and Long/Matt is a role model we'd be delighted to see any kid follow.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book not knowing it was for young readers, so that's my fault. Of course, it wasn't very obvious, looking at the description. Regardless, I bought it, received it, and started reading it, and could tell right away it was for young readers, ie dumbed-down. Short sentences one after another like "Matt was hungry, he hadn't eaten today. He wondered where his mother was. He saw a water buffalo crossing the road." Anyway, I guess it's alright for young adults. I've been to Vietnam, and every spoiled American brat kid should go there and see how the majority of the earth's kids live.

I would recommend the author Google "Matt Steiner, MD" and see what he's up to these days. Oh, I just did that, and see he was arrested for selling drugs and giving alcohol to minors. Seems like a Matt, having been lucky to escape from Vietnam and end up with a good American family, and then going to medical school and becoming a doctor, marry a lady and have kids, ie "The American Dream" would know better than to throw it all away like that; selling prescription drugs out of a seedy hotel room. However, it might make for a new edition of the book.
(...)
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This book gives enough detail that it can stand alone without and prior knowledge of the situation in Vietnam at the time of the fall of Saigon. It give a very understandable history to explain it. The story is very compelling and the author has a connection to Operation Babylift. I found it very difficult to find stories about Operation Babylift. I could find information but not many stories. This story is well written and it can be applicable to anyone from middle school on. I have had high school student that read it and thought it was very good.
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