We have just finished exploring Vietnam and I wanted to share several resources that were highlights, and I would highly recommend.
Firstly, we thoroughly enjoyed “Children of the Dragon” by Sherry Garland. It contained several traditional Vietnamese folktales; each retold in such a way that we were drawn into the story. The language was just beautiful. We read folktales from other sources and none were as beautiful as these. I particularly appreciated the information that was included at the end of each story in Garland’s book. If the story featured a water buffalo or star fruit, then there would be additional information about water buffalo and star fruit at the end of the story.
The very first books we read about Vietnam were these two: “The Land I Lost” and “Water Buffalo Days”. While meant for a younger audience, we didn’t care, as they were ideal introductions into Vietnamese village life. From these books, we learned about culture, lifestyle, agriculture, animals and a hint about the struggles within Vietnam. So many times we would hear a reference – such as two-step snakes – and know exactly what they were talking about because of what we’d read in these two little books. I’m so glad we read them first.
I held off on the topic of the Vietnam war, until after we’d fallen in love with the people and culture. I’m crafty like that. Then we read and watched all manner of things about the conflicts in Vietnam.
“A Million Shades of Gray”, (as opposed to 50 hideous shades that is sadly popular at present), is the audio story that we listened to and is well worth mentioning. The story is set in South Vietnam towards the end of the Vietnam War, after the West had pulled out.
One stand out resource that has to mentioned is the dvd, “Agent Orange: A Personal Requiem”. We only ever seem to hear about the effects of Agent Orange on the soldiers. But this dvd takes you into the homes of Vietnamese families and their children, who are devastatingly affected by the chemicals.
It was a hard-hitting dvd but worthy, necessary viewing. The boys watched it with us because we don’t believe in shielding them from ugliness. We want their hearts to ache for others.
Towards the very end of our Vietnamese studies, we read “The Happiest Refugee” by Anh Do and “Goodbye Vietnam” by Gloria Whelan. I wouldn’t recommend “The Happiest Refugee” but in it there is a vivid description of their boat journey to Australia, which was worthy reading, with a smidge of censoring. “Goodbye Vietnam” is a much more appropriate title for children, while still describing the hardships of those boat journeys.
After reading about immigration, you simply must watch “I’ll Call Australia Home”. It doesn’t feature any Vietnamese families but it outlines how difficult it is for immigrants to settle in a totally foreign country. This dvd helped up step into the shoes of new Australians.
Finally, we read this delightful picture book, “The Lotus Seed”. I’d bought it early in our studies but totally forgotten about it until the very last day, which turn out to be God’s timing. Without all of our prior knowledge about Vietnam, we would not have fully appreciated this story. It turned out to be the perfect wrap up for our unit on Vietnam.
And now we are on to the study of China…well, once we finish our current detour into Civil Rights.