9781772780055_cover Enlarge Cover View Excerpt
5 of 5
1 rating
list price: $23.95
also available: Paperback
category: Children's Nonfiction
published: Sep 2016
publisher: Pajama Press Inc.

Adrift at Sea

A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival

by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, with Tuan Ho, illustrated by Brian Deines

tagged: emigration & immigration, historical, asia

The award-winning first picture book to recount the dramatic true story of a refugee family’s perilous escape from Vietnam

It is 1981. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a fishing boat overloaded with 60 Vietnamese refugees drifts. The motor has failed; the hull is leaking; the drinking water is nearly gone. This is the dramatic true story recounted by Tuan Ho, who was six years old when he, his mother, and two sisters dodged the bullets of Vietnam’s military police for the perilous chance of boarding that boat.

Told to multi-award-winning author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and illustrated by the celebrated Brian Deines, Tuan’s story has become Adrift At Sea, the first picture book to describe the flight of Vietnam’s “Boat People” refugees.

Illustrated with sweeping oil paintings and complete with an expansive Author’s Note, this non-fiction picture book comes as the world continues to grapple with the plight of refugees risking all for the chance at safety and a new life.

About the Authors

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

MARSHA FORCHUK SKRYPUCH is a Ukrainian Canadian author acclaimed for her nonfiction and historical fiction, including Making Bombs for Hitler (Faire des bombes pour Hitler), The War Below (Soldat clandestin), Stolen Child (Enfant volée,et), and Don't Tell the Enemy (Ne dis rien l'ennemi). Marsha lives in Brantford, Ontario, and you can visit her online at www.calla.com.


Tuan Ho escaped Vietnam at age six in 1981 among thousands of other boat people refugees. Through author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch in the picture book Adrift at Sea, he has told the story of how he, his mother, and two sisters survived five days adrift on the ocean with dwindling fresh water before being rescued by a U.S. aircraft carrier. Joining the rest of his family in Canada, he went on to attend school in Toronto and is now an accomplished physiotherapist. Tuan and his wife Edae have two young daughters, Madeline and Emily.

Brian Deines is an outstanding Canadian children's book illustrator who has been nominated for the Governor General's Award, the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award and the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award for his work. He has illustrated The Hockey Tree (Hockey sur le lac), One Hockey Night (Une belle soirée de hockey) and Our Canadian Flag. Brian has a wonderful way of painting light and conveying emotion, and lends that gift to the striking images in this book.
Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
6 to 9
1 to 4
  • Short-listed, Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award: Grade 3-5
  • Commended, The Booklist Reader "The Refugee Experience for Children and Young Adults" selection
  • Commended, Canadian School Libraries Journal: Resource Links Highlights: Refugees and Immigrants" selection
  • Winner, Forest of Reading Golden Oak Award
  • Commended, School Library Journal “Collaborating on High-Interest Topics | The Refugee Experience” selection
  • Short-listed, Red Cedar Information Book Award
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Starred Selection
  • Short-listed, Cybils Award: Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction
  • Commended, Stacked Books "Monthly Giving: International Refugee Assistance Program" selection
  • Runner-up, Children's Literature Roundtable of Canada Information Book Award Honour Book selection
  • Commended, New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council's Hot Titles selection
Editorial Review

Praise for Adrift at Sea

2018 Forest of Reading Golden Oak Award Winner

2019 Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award: Grade 3-5 shortlist

2017 Red Cedar Information Book Award shortlist

2017 Cybils Award: Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction shortlist

2017 Children's Literature Roundtable of Canada Information Book Award Honour Book selection

2018 The Booklist Reader "The Refugee Experience for Children and Young Adults" selection

2018 School Library Journal "Collaborating on High-Interest Topics | The Refugee Experience" selection

2018 Canadian School Libraries Journal: Resource Links Highlights: Refugees and Immigrants" selection

2017 Stacked Books "Monthly Giving: International Refugee Assistance Program" selection

2017 Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens Starred Selection

2016 New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council's Hot Titles selection

2016 Resource Links "The Year's Best" selection

2021 Unpacking the Power of Picture Books "Viet Nam: Three Must-See, Must-Read Picture Books" selection

"In this picture book for somewhat older readers, Ho narrates the story of his perilous escape from postwar Vietnam, in 1981, describing his pain at leaving behind loved ones and relief upon being rescued by an American aircraft carrier after six days adrift on the ocean. The text is terse and unembellished, leaving the images to capture the emotions through color and perspective—and they do so with compelling immediacy."—Booklist

"[A] remarkable tale of perseverance that involved attacks from soldiers, a broken boat at sea, and a trip that was intended to last four days but went horribly awry....This is a solid informational resource that can be used for introducing a refugee's experience."—School Library Journal

"[D]etailed authors' notes include history, photographs, and maps. The warm undertones in Deines' oil paintings evoke tropical Vietnam."—Kirkus Reviews

"Skrypuch uses one child's story to give moving insight into the experience of the many children who escaped war-ravaged Vietnam to start new lives....Deines's hazy oil paintings poignantly capture the family's physical ordeal and anguish during their perilous journey."—Publishers Weekly

"Tuan's dramatic story of survival comes alive in Skrypuch's capable hands. The heart-pounding action alone is enough to captivate readers, but Skrypuch also incorporates moments of great poignancy that add depth and emotion....Deines's accompanying artwork is achingly beautiful....That danger can exist amid such beauty is an important lesson to learn. That the human spirit can triumph under the most trying of conditions is even more important."—Quill & Quire

"The evocative text and powerful illustrations, painted with oils, enable readers to feel as though they, too, are refugees adrift at sea during this risky journey to freedom..."—ILA Literacy Daily, "War and Its Aftermath

"Filled with urgency, fear, and ultimately hope, Tuan's real-life odyssey proves to be an illuminating inspiration for all readers."—Smithsonian BookDragon

"[A] powerful story, and it doesn’t shy away from the dangers experienced—sometimes fatally—by the refugees."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"This beautifully illustrated nonfiction picture book introduces the reader to a real family....An interesting read that explains why and how people are sometimes forced to flee and find a new homeland."—The International Educator

"Given no other options but to leave their homeland in hopes of a better life, Tuan describes and recounts the horrors of leaving everything behind and having to escape into an unknown world....Filled with colorful and vibrant drawings that engages readers from start to finish, Adrift at Sea is a powerful historical nonfiction story."—International Examiner

"Adrift at Sea is a heartwarming story that will prompt young people to be grateful for the good things in their lives, and highly recommended."—Midwest Book Review

"The beautiful, full-page oil paintings effectively convey the dangerous escape, the blistering heat, and the loneliness of being adrift on the ocean....This is an especially useful book to help students understand why refugees are still crowding into boats and risking everything for a better life even today."—School Library Connection

"Recommend to teachers to supplement studies about the Vietnam War or current events with an example of how non-combatants can be affected by the outcome of wars."—Youth Services Book Review

"This book is true, and it is really sad....[it] is a good book to help you understand how people feel and the things they have to do if they feel like they need to run away from bad things that are happening where they live."—Kids' BookBuzz

"Brian Deines...created beautiful oil on canvas illustrations for the book. The colours of the illustrations are bight and vibrant. Other highlights of the book are the personal photographs, biography of Tuan's family, map, and historical note which bookend the narrative of the story....Adrift at Sea is an important addition to Canadian picture book market....Recommended."—CM Magazine

"Brian Deines' subtle double-page oil paintings add greatly to the mood and text of this story....This book is very timely as we have so many refugees from war torn countries in the Middle East now attempting to make their way to a better life under the same kind of conditions that the Vietnamese people experienced back in 1981....I would highly recommend this book for all school and public libraries."—Resource Links

"Adrift at Sea tells this difficult tale with a direct honesty that creates an opportunity for accompanied discussion, especially for some younger readers. Skrypuch maintains a strong sense of hope throughout, demonstrating the true strength of young Tuan."—Canadian Children's Book News

"This fascinating read gives a glimpse of the struggle and bravery of a refugee....This is a powerful tale that enables children to learn about a time in history that they may not know about."—The Crimson Review of Children's and YA Literature

"The illustrations in this book, full color paintings, are absolutely stunning....Brian Deines, has outdone himself in two-page spreads that bring this refugee story to life....[A] good introduction to the subject of the Vietnamese boat people..."—Semicolon

"This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of Tuan's days at sea and their eventual rescue by American sailors. End pages include photographs and information that round out the story and tell of Tuan's life in with his family in Toronto."—Nerdy Book Club

"From the illustration of a lone boat adrift in a wash of dry heat that graces the cover of Adrift at Sea, to the dark and engrossing images of Tuan's steps along the journey, Brian Deines' art is evocative and integrative, resplendent in complementary colours of orange and golds and blues and purples."—CanLit for LittleCanadians

"The authors include personal photographs of Tuan's family, before their escape and following their settling in Canada, to help readers understand this historical moment in time....Brian Deines (as he always does) has created truly beautiful artwork using oils on canvas to bring Tuan's story to this book's readers."—Sal's Fiction Addiction


Top  Grade
Librarian review

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival

Tuan Ho’s story of the flight of Vietnam’s “Boat People” refugees is a powerful resource to help students understand the refugee experience and its connection to contemporary world issues. The first-person perspective allows readers to identify with the challenges of survival in a time of crisis. This book serves as an excellent example of a non-fiction autobiographical narrative. The vivid illustrations provide rich visuals and bring-to-life the hardships experienced by Vietnamese refugees. A helpful afterword accompanies the text, providing historical context and biographical details alongside photographs.

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Diversity Collection Selection 2017.

Contacting facebook
Please wait...