Hanh Bui highlights the helpers who welcomed her and her family to the United States in the 1970s, surrounds herself with positive people, and stays true to her story.
During the pandemic when Hanh heard about immigrant children being separated from their parents at the Mexican border, she knew she had to share her immigration story with the world. She wanted to tell stories about all the helpers who eased her and her family's transition to the United States: soldiers, social workers, teachers, church workers, as well as organizations such as the YMCA, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
In order to tell her story, she knew she would have to surround herself with positive people. She engaged with her local writing community by attending book launches at independent bookstores. The first author event she attended featured Mary Rand Hess. Mary became her first writer friend and mentor. From there, Hanh joined SCBWI, engaged with Highlights, attended Pat Cumming's Picture Book Boot Camp, and participated in Vivian Kirkfield's 50 Precious Words Contest. Hanh is so grateful to all of these people and organizations for helping her along the way.
Some people wanted Hanh to change certain aspects of her story. For example, some people wanted the mother in Hanh's debut book, The Yellow Áo Dài, to be angry. But that was not the experience Hanh wanted to portray. The fact that Hanh portrayed a kind and empathetic Asian mother, instead of the hurtful, stereotypical Asian tiger mom, attracted illustrator Minnie Phan to Hanh's story. Hanh stayed so true to kindness and empathy, that I felt loved as a reader.
Hanh recommends people have the following picture books in their elementary classrooms:
The Power of Yet by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
This book features a pig who practices patience and perseverance. With those two qualities, anything is possible.
The Kindest Red by S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly
This book shows children that they can be resilient and have courage especially when they surround themselves with positive people.
Hanh also recommends teachers have classics on hand such as Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad, as well as books by Sandra Boynton and Mo Willems.
If you would like to win a copy of Hanh's book please leave a comment below.
To prep for our next episode, be sure to read one or both of Chris Baron's middle grade novels, All of Me or The Magical Imperfect.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's banner and logo. Summer is just around the corner. Be sure to pick up a copy of Summertime Sleepers, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah, and start daydreaming about summertime naps.
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