This semi autobiographical tale by Thanhha Lai is about a young girl's experience fleeing Saigon under siege. Her father is missing, and the family makes the heartbreaking decision to leave without him.
Ha's thoughts about her home do not include the bombs and war, but of papayas and the flowers her father grew. Her new home in Alabama challenges her as she struggles to fit in and deals with teasing from classmates and distrust from neighbors.
The details in this National Book Award winning novel are terrific and appropriate for middle school readers. It is written in verse, which makes it an easy, lyrical read. The main character charms with a heart big enough to let go her only possession to make her brother feel better about losing his. I am rooting for that girl, and it sometimes hurts to see what happens to her. Yet there is always a spring of hope, like the flower seeds saved from her father's garden.