Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories
Region: Southeast Asia, Vietnam
Author: Tran Thi Minh Phuoc
Original Language: English rendition of Vietnamese stories
Translator: Translated by the Author
Illustrator: Nguyen Thi Hop; Nguyen Dong
Character: Cam, Mai An Tiem, Ngoc Tam, Nhan Diep, Tam
Descriptors: fables; food; gods; heroes; kings; legends; morals; nature; peasants; Vietnamese traditions
Age: 5+ years old
Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories is a collection of 15 beloved Vietnamese stories retold for Western children by Phuoc Thi Minh Tran, the first Vietnamese librarian in Minnesota. This collection hosts popular tales that teach readers about Vietnamese virtues, such as “The Story of Tam and Cam,” the Vietnamese version of Cinderella, which instills kindness in young children. “Mai An Tiem and the Watermelon Seeds” teaches virtues of loyalty and hard work through the story’s main hero, Mai An Tiem, an orphan adopted by a King. The King’s youngest son grows jealous of how Mai An Tiem is favored over the King’s own sons and manipulates the King so that Mai An Tiem is sent away to an island to see if he can survive without the King’s good grace. Despite the hardship, Mai An Tiem carves out a living for himself: he discovers a new fruit, watermelon, and begins farming it. He sends watermelon to the King as a gift and is rewarded for his loyalty. Other tales in this collection highlight the Vietnamese legends surrounding nature, such as “The Legend of the Mosquito,” which provides the backstory of how the world’s most annoying insect arose from human greed. Phuoc Thi Minh Tran writes in the introduction that all tales within Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories “paint a picture of a world that values the five great virtues: Nhan (Compassion), Le (Rituals), Nghia (Righteousness), Tri (Wisdom), and Tin (Trust).” These traditional folktales have been passed down from generation to generation through oral retellings. Phuoc Thi Minh Tran compiled her favorite tales in this collection as a way of sharing Vietnamese culture and values with immigrant families and the rest of the world. As a result, this collection is filled with Vietnamese cultural references. The author provides explanations for many cultural characteristics within the stories so that the children of the West can understand them. The colorful watercolor illustrations by Thi Hop and Dong Nguyen provide a further glimpse into the beauty of traditional Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories won the Creative Child Magazine 2015 Book of the Year Award and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2015 Gold Medal. Children ages five and up will adore this collection of charming stories.
More About This Book
Reviewed: e-book by Tuttle Publishing (2015). ISBN: 0804844291, 9780804844291.
Notes: Only a few of these stories within this collection have been read for the purpose of this review. Content Warning: Several stories have mentions of death and blood which may be upsetting to some children. In “The Legend of the Mosquito,” one of the main characters dies but is brought back to life with three drops of her husband’s blood. At the end of the story, she pricks her finger to give the blood back and immediately drops dead. Additional sources used: [https://www.tuttlepublishing.com/books-by-country/vietnamese-childrens-favorite-stories-hardcover-with-jacket]
Resources: GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22892068-vietnamese-children-s-favorite-stories
Reviewed by Leah Byrnes