Grades 2-6 (Pajama Press, 2011)
What I love about Marsha Skrypuch’s writing is how she explores stories often considered too complex, too controversial or too emotionally-charged for a book. Then she addresses these stories to children – delivering them openly with respect and candor and with their deepest humanity intact so that each reader, child or grown-up, can access them at a level appropriate to her own understanding.
In Last Airlift, Skrypuch tells the true story of Son Thi Anh Tuyet, one of the orphans airlifted from South Vietnam to Canada before the fall of Saigon in 1975. Having lived her entire life in war-torn Vietnam, Tuyet has no recollection of life outside the orphanage and, indeed, has never seen the sky. She is packaged into a van and then an airplane bound for Toronto, not knowing where she is going or even why. This young girl is a strong, admirable character, determined to prove herself in an unfamiliar and frightening situation.
Finding the voice of eight-year-old Tuyet, Skrypuch writes in a manner that speaks directly to young audiences. She includes details that help readers see things from Tuyet’s perspective, like her confusion about how to use toothpaste or how to play on a swing. The material, however, is something that most adults could learn something by reading as well. Like Stolen Child, another favourite of mine by this author, Last Airlift left me deeply moved and enlightened.