When you do a good deed, it will come back to you. Mai loves feeding the caged birds near the temple but dreams that one day she'll see them fly free. Then she meets Thu and shares the joy of feeding the birds with her. This sets a chain of good deeds in motion that radiates throughout her village and beyond. Set in Vietnam, Roseanne Thong's inspiring story, an Asian-Pacific American Librarians Association Honor Book, is elegantly illustrated with watercolor on wood by ...
When you do a good deed, it will come back to you. Mai loves feeding the caged birds near the temple but dreams that one day she'll see them fly free. Then she meets Thu and shares the joy of feeding the birds with her. This sets a chain of good deeds in motion that radiates throughout her village and beyond. Set in Vietnam, Roseanne Thong's inspiring story, an Asian-Pacific American Librarians Association Honor Book, is elegantly illustrated with watercolor on wood by Eujin Kim Neilan.
PreS-Gr 3—A Vietnamese girl feeds caged birds outside a Buddhist temple, beginning a cycle of good deeds continued by the townspeople, including a girl who gives away her red-velvet shoes, before circling back to the birds. Although written to illustrate the Buddhist philosophy of karma, the lesson of this simple story, that helping others is helpful to you, is universal. The muted and warm watercolor-on-board illustrations glow with gold, orange, red, and brown tones, although the girls' unnaturally pink cheeks and lips give them a jarringly clownish look. One of the characters is a monk but the only explicit religious message is found in an author's note that explains karma, nirvana, and samsara (the wheel of life). The arresting cover illustration of a child holding her hands in the air as birds fly into the distance foreshadows the story's conclusion. That dramatic image will immediately engage readers in wondering how the birds will be freed. The slight story serves primarily as a framework for the lesson but the approach is gentle and nonjudgmental.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
“Fly free, fly free, in the sky so blue. When you do a good deed, it will come back to you!” sing the Vietnamese characters in Thong’s (Wish) story, as each does something to help the next. Mai wants to release a cageful of birds at the birdseller’s—a traditional Buddhist good deed—but she doesn’t have the money. She leaves water for the oxcart driver, who gives a stranger a ride, who repays the driver with a cake, and so on, until Mai’s birds are freed by another good deed. Neilan (Imagine a Dragon) applies luminous colors to wood with a heavy horizontal grain, creating cloud-streaked skies, rice fields, and mist-shrouded lakes. The tranquil landscapes give appropriate calm to a story about karma, the idea that good deeds accumulate and affect one’s rebirth in the next life. Neilan’s characters look best in profile; in head-on views, their features sometimes appear squashed or lopsided. Still, it’s a useful introduction to Southeast Asia, an explanation of the Buddhist concept of karma (an explanatory note appears in back), and a neat moral tale about paying it forward. Ages 7–9. (Jan.)
- Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Young Mai feeds the sparrows in a cage at the Buddhist temple in Vietnam. Setting them free would be a good deed, but she has no money. She invites another girl named Thu to help her, repeating the song, "Fly free, fly free,/ in the sky so blue./ When you do a good deed,/ it will come back to you." On her way home, Thu gives her slippers to a girl who has cut her foot, repeating the "Fly free…" The grateful girl in turn gives fresh water to a weary cart driver. He hears her "Fly free..." song. He gives a ride in his cart to an old woman. The next morning she gives some rice to a passing monk, whose thanks blend in with the song. He then cures a sick boy. The boy's father, going to the temple to give thanks, sees Mai feeding the birds and singing her song. Seeing how good deeds are passed along, he pays so the sparrows can "fly free." Neilan uses watercolors to depict quiet landscapes and more intimate scenes, applying them like stains on raw boards. The wood grain becomes a unifying factor, a subtle horizontal texture, perhaps a visual representation of the Buddhist belief in the one-ness of all living things. The costumes and scenery have an ageless but Asian character. The author adds a background note. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
At the gates of the Buddhist temple, Mai sees a cage full of sparrows for sale. Without the money to buy and release them, she offers to feed them. Thu, another little girl, helps and takes heed of Mai's whispered "Fly, free, fly free, / in the sky so blue. / When you do a good deed, / it will come back to you." Thu later gives her beautiful red slippers to another little girl with a cut foot. The "wheel of kindness" continues to turn, with various characters doing something good for someone else until a father, grateful that his son has recovered from illness, approaches the temple to pray, sees and purchases the cage and, to Mai's joy, sets the sparrows free. Buddhist tradition and belief in reincarnation reflects the idea that one's actions, good or bad, affect one's rebirth. The smoothly written circular narrative with its reverent message is authenticated by Neilan's muted watercolors, which are rendered on light tan board and softly depict a Vietnamese countryside peopled by folk wearing conical hats and traditional dress. (Picture book/religion. 4-7)
Roseanne Thong is the award-winning author of many children's books, including Wish, Red Is a Dragon, and Round is a Mooncake. She lives in Southern California.
Eujin Kim Neilan is the illustrator of Imagine a Dragon by Laurence Pringle. The Best Winds by Laura E. Williams, and The Rabbit and the Dragon King and In the Moonlight Mist: A Korean Tale, both retold by Daniel San Souci. Born in Korea, she lives in Natick, Massachusetts.