Title: Escaping the Tiger
Author: Laura Manivong
Release Date: March 9, 2010
Synopsis:When you’re so skinny people call you Skeleton Boy, how do you find strength for the fight of your life?
Twelve-year-old Vonlai knows that soldiers who guard the Mekong River shoot at anything that moves, but in oppressive Communist Laos, there’s nothing left for him, his spirited sister, Dalah, and his desperate parents. Their only hope is a refugee camp in Thailand—on the other side of the river.
When they reach the camp, their struggles are far from over. Na Pho is a forgotten place where life consists of squalid huts, stifling heat, and rationed food. Still, Vonlai tries to carry on as if everything is normal. He pays attention in school, a dusty barrack overcrowded with kids too hungry to learn. And, to forget his empty stomach, he plays soccer in a field full of rocks. But when someone inside the camp threatens his family, Vonlai calls on a forbidden skill to protect their future—a future he’s sure is full of promise, if only they can make it out of Na Pho alive.
This is a great and very age appropriate book looking at life in a refugee camp. This is a book that is both educational and entertaining at the same time. Laura does a great job of drawing you in to the horrors, the love, the relationships and the hope that all collide for Vonlai and his family while they are in Na Pho. This story is even more touching when you learn that it was inspired by Laura’s own husband’s journey from Laos to the US in the 1980s. The book includes a great afterward that talks a little about Troy’s (Laura’s husband) story and the inspiration for the book.
It always amazes me how stories of great heart break are also stories of great hope. Vonlai and his family live through some very touch situations but their hope for a better life and Vonlai’s dream of seeing the buildings that touch the sky keep them going to make it through their time at Na Pho. This book is a great tool for class rooms talking about current affairs as well as history. This is a very universal story about hardship and hope and how people survive every day in refugee camps around the world.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a nice change of pace to read a historical fiction YA book. It’s also a topic that’s not addressed very much so it was nice to learn a little more about post-war Asia. Most people know about Vietnam and Korea, but the story of Laos is sometimes lost to history, so I applaud Laura and Harper Teen for addressing this subject and I am looking forward to see what Laura is writing next!