Published by HarperCollins on February 17, 2015
Genres: Diversity, Middle Grade
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
This remarkable novel from Thanhha Lại, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.
A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.
Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.
The summer she turns twelve, Mia’s sent to the last place she wants to go. Instead of spending the summer on the beach with her best friend, she’s stuck in Vietnam with her grandmother. Bà’s on a quest to find news of her husband, Ông, who vanished during THE WAR more than thirty-five years ago. Mia wants nothing to do with hot and smelly Vietnam, a place where the only Internet she can find is dial up and she can’t speak the language. But Mia also wants her grandmother to have peace… as long as Bà hurries up.
I think Mia’s character is a great look at a first-generation kid. Her parents raised her to be American, but also with Vietnamese values. Yes, Mia’s selfish at times for her wish to go back home to her friends, but she also recognizes how important it is that Bà have closure. Over the course of LISTEN, SLOWLY, Mia respects her grandmother and her Vietnamese culture more and more. I really liked that theme of the book — I wish more kids and teens (and even adults!) these days respected their elders.
LISTEN, SLOWLY isn’t an action-packed book; it does unfold somewhat slowly. I do wonder if the recommended age, 8-12, would stick with it. But I don’t think it’s a book restricted to that age — teen and adult readers looking for diversity and a heartwarming story should pick this up. I liked Mia’s sometimes sarcastic observations about her culture, from the language to the food to how people are so polite all the time. I liked how she told her story, and hope it’s one lots of people read. Alongside Mia’s journey to learning about family, I teared up a bit for Bà and Ông.
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