A Different Pond
"Dad wakes me quietly so Mom can keep sleeping. It will be hours before the sun comes up." So begins a Vietnamese American boy's account of a pre-dawn fishing expedition with his father. They've made this trip before, and the boy asks his father, who has recently taken a second job, "Why do we still have to fish for food?" Dad replies, "Everything in America costs a lot of money."
A Different Pond isn't a story in the traditional sense--there's no wedge-like event to disrupt the narrative's flow. But conflicts that happened offscreen shape the narrative into one family's story. Bao Phi, a poet, gives the narrator's words an occasional lyricism (minnows in the plastic bag from the bait shop "swim like silver arrows in my hands"); this is neither overbearing nor implausible in a child old enough to mind his baby brother to help out his parents. Playing off the writing's grace is Thi Bui's art, in which characters tend to be rendered more simply than their painterly backgrounds. In the final illustration, a mottled blue image of lily pads and swirling fish appears behind the boy, who's dreaming "of fish in faraway ponds." --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author