The Paper Boat

SKU: ISBN 9781771473637
$16.95 CAD $19.95

by Thao Lam

Named a best picture book of 2020 by Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, New York Public Library, the Globe and Mail, CBC, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books — a heartfelt and personal immigration story by critically acclaimed author Thao Lam

New from Thao Lam, the award-winning author of picture books 
My Cat Looks Like My DadWallpaper, and Skunk on a String, comes a personal story inspired by her family’s refugee journey.

The Paper Boat, Thao’s signature collage art tells the wordless story of one family’s escape from Vietnam—a journey intertwined with an ant colony’s parallel narrative.

At her home in Vietnam, a girl rescues ants from the sugar water set out to trap them. Later, when the girl’s family flees war-torn Vietnam, ants lead them through the moonlit jungle to the boat that will take them to safety. Before boarding, the girl folds a paper boat from a bun wrapper and drops it into the water, and the ants climb on. Their perilous journey, besieged by punishing weather, predatory birds, and dehydration, before reaching a new beginning, mirrors the family’s own. Impressionistic collages and a moving, Own Voices narrative make this a one-of-a-kind tale of courage, resilience, and hope.

Recommended for young readers ages 6-11 years old.

Hardcover, 40 pags.

Published by Owl Kids.


"Children will be compelled to return again and again to digest its story. A timely, resonant, exceptional model of visual storytelling." ― Kirkus Reviews – STARRED REVIEW

"Each panel is so detailed that readers will want to linger over them all, admiring Lam’s craft even while being immersed in emotions. A tender tribute to the author’s parents and to all refugees who survive and thrive despite enormous odds." ― 

"This sensitively rendered story is accessible to young viewers, and it’s a perfect stepping stone for older readers."

― Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books – STARRED REVIEW

"The artistry in the illustrations is spectacular... An important story told in an impeccable format." ― 
School Library Journal – STARRED REVIEW

"Crisply cut paper represents intricate domestic scenes and just as skillfully conveys suspense... in this story of bravery and resilience." ― 
Publishers Weekly

"Thao Lam shares her family’s history in this wordless tribute to the adults and children who were forced to flee Vietnam in the aftermath of the war." ― 
Foreword Reviews

"I loved this wordless true story of a little girl and her family escaping Vietnam for a new home in North American. Told in frames, like a comic or graphic novel, Thao Lam's story evolves as the family hides their goods, their intentions, and their leaving, with the story of the ants the girl has helped to make the same journey. It's dark and scary, but as much of our world is again feeling the same, it is also comforting to see them together at the end, all at home." ― 
René Kirkpatrick, University Book Store, Seattle WA

"The visual storytelling here is rich and layered; it’s a compelling story and filled with such details that readers will find themselves lingering over panel after panel and page after page. It’s deeply moving, this tribute to Lam’s own family." ― 
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

"Unique, wordless, and beautiful." ― 
100 Scope Notes

The Paper Boat is beautiful, emotional, and an essential read." ― The Tiny Activist

"The delicacy of the cut-paper art makes for incredibly moving images and invites the eye to linger on the frames... One can find the ants in the jungle, follow the child’s eye, then return to the previous spread to breathe in its emotional impact, before carrying on." ― 
Children's Literature

The Paper Boat] is another brilliant wordless display of Lam's talents as a paper cut and collage connoisseur... Lam takes care to depict every feeling of every key moment from the young girl's perspective, providing readers with an innocent lens through which to connect with this story." ― Let's Talk Picture Books

"With cut paper illustrations, Lam shows two parallel stories — a Vietnamese family and a group of ants — leaving home and taking to boats for refuge. The tiny ants deepen the sense of the family’s vulnerability and, although Lam describes an event of the 1970s, the story resonates all too well in our current world." ― 
Toronto Star

"Thao Lam invites the reader to delve into the story and make connections between the two families, one ant and one human, finding the similarities and differences in their plights and the relationships between and within." ― 
CanLit for Little Canadians

"[Lam] carefully guides her readers through the emotional trauma of [the Vietnam War] from the perspective of a child... Lam shares her story in an equally moving afterword but it's the wordless story that will resonate with readers." ― 
The Globe and Mail

"A rich story rife with emotion." ― 
Canadian Review of Materials

"Readers will be enchanted by this remarkable wordless picture book, and its powerful themes of sacrifice, survival, and—above all else—family."

― Sal's Fiction Addiction

"A wonderfully gentle way to tell the story of war."

― Calgary Herald