Horn Book Magazine
An excellent first step on the ladder that leads to such fine immigrant tales as Thanhha Lai's Inside Out & Back Again.
Tuyet's remarkable true story recounts the heroic rescue on a plane bigger than her orphanage, with babies hurriedly placed in cardboard boxes and an unknown future for all. With the new foods, her own bed, eating with a fork, using a toothbrush (instead of her fingers and some salt), walking on grass (instead of rice paddies), and learning that the lights in the nighttime sky are stars instead of bombs, it's her adjustment to a foreign land and an adopted family that proves most fascinating.
Last Airlift is the story of an heroic deed, of one young girl's courage and resourcefulness when she most needs it, and of the ending she could not foresee . . . **Highly Recommended.**
Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
[The] biographical approach helps to humanize a war that, for most readers, may seem like ancient history, and the tight focus on the airlift and Tuyet's first days with the Morrises reminds readers that they are sharing the experiences of an agemate.
Cooperative Center for Children's Books Choices
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch never strays from Tuyet's child-centered perspective in recounting her experiences. In an author's note, Skrypuch describes interviewing Tuyet (obviously now an adult), who found that she remembered more and more of the past as she talked. Dialogue takes this narrative out of the category of pure nonfiction, but Tuyet's story, with its occasional black-and-white illustrations, is no less affecting because of it.
Smithsonian Institute Book Dragon
Enhanced with documents and a surprising number of photographs, Airlift is a touching, multi-layered experience. The strength of Skrypuch's storytelling shows strongest in the smallest details.
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Ten-year-old Tuyet could not remember any life before the Saigon orphanage. The children there were fed, clothed, and given some schooling by nuns. Since Tuyet had a weak foot and ankle from polio, she could not participate in games, so she helped care for the many orphaned babies, always fearing she might be sent away. On April 11, 1975, Saigon fell to the Viet Cong. Suddenly, Tuyet’s world turned upside down as strangers arrived, packed up babies in boxes, and drove the children to an airport, where Canadian Hercules aircraft waited to fly them away. Skrypuch describes the evacuation: first to Hong Kong, then on to Canada, where everything was strange and new--Tuyet had never seen a photo of herself, felt cold air, or seen stars. She watched other children being collected by families, until she was the only one left. What would happen to her now? Tuyet was extraordinarily lucky to be adopted by a loving Toronto family, including two younger girls and a small Vietnamese boy. Skrypuch at first intended to write a novel based on Tuyet’s ordeal, but as she later interviewed grownup Tuyet, the young woman began to recover memories and was able to correct the author’s fiction. With help from Tuyet’s adoptive mother, they recreated the little girl’s bewildered adjustment to her new sisters and brother, to completely foreign food, and to sleeping alone, which she had never done. Young readers will get an intimate look at a lonely child displaced by war and brought to another world; black-and-white photos help document details. Fortunately, Tuyet’s poignant story had a happy ending, though Skrypuch reminds readers that many orphans died in Vietnam. The Canadian airlift offered hope and a new life to some. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft AGERANGE: Ages 8 to 12.
VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Rochelle Garfinkel
War orphan stories do not always have happy endings, but this one ends well. This true story of Tuyet, a Vietnamese war orphan who was on the Canadian government’s Operation Babylift in April 1975 is gripping and sometimes graphic, but most middle school students will not be overwhelmed by it. The language is simple enough for younger tweens, and there are black-and-white photographs, as well as primary source documents, to help readers envision Tuyet’s reality as a young girl traveling from the orphanage in Saigon to Toronto. Readers will be able to identify with Tuyet as she does not understand the English being spoken around her, is surrounded by strangers, and does not know where they are taking her or what is expected of her. The author does a fine job of helping the reader understand what Tuyet was feeling: how she believed she could not possibly be adopted because of her age and her limp and that she assumed her job was to help with the babies just as she had done in the orphanage. There are clear descriptions and photographs of conditions in the orphanage as well as the war in Vietnam, but those scenes are not dwelled upon; rather they are presented in a matter-of-fact way. The first several chapters are certainly intense for the reader, but this book can serve many purposes for middle school readers. It is a good glimpse into the effects of war on children and families, as well as a look at international adoption, immigration, language learning, and assimilation. Reviewer: Rochelle Garfinkel; Ages 11 to 14.