The Buddha's Diamonds

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Overview

After a storm engulfs his village, a Vietnamese boy has glimmers of a new calling in this spare middle-grade novel written with authenticity and grace.

Every day, Tinh heads out to sea with his father to catch fish for their family and the market. While he sometimes misses flying kites with other children on the beach, Tinh is proud to work alongside Ba. Then a fierce storm strikes, and Ba entrusts Tinh to secure the family vessel, but the boy panics and runs away. It ...

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Overview

After a storm engulfs his village, a Vietnamese boy has glimmers of a new calling in this spare middle-grade novel written with authenticity and grace.

Every day, Tinh heads out to sea with his father to catch fish for their family and the market. While he sometimes misses flying kites with other children on the beach, Tinh is proud to work alongside Ba. Then a fierce storm strikes, and Ba entrusts Tinh to secure the family vessel, but the boy panics and runs away. It will take courage and faith to salvage the bamboo boat, win back Ba’s confidence, and return to sea. This graceful tale narrates a young Vietnamese boy’s literal and spiritual coming-of-age.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
She held out two pieces of bamboo and some pink paper, a bit of string, and a bottle of glue.

"You brought everything," he said.

"I remembered what you needed."

Tinh stood on tiptoe and looked toward the soccer field. If there was a soccer game oing, he certainly didn't want to spend time with his sister. But it was probably too late to join the game. Plus his cousins would tease him for staying in the temple.

Tinh sat down on a low wall and fastened Lan's bamboo sticks into the shape of a cross. When the sticks were firmly tied, he held the skeleton of the kite to the sky, imagining it floating in the soft blue. Lan wiggled in anticipation. As Tinh lowered the bamboo to his lap and stretched the pink paper over the cross, he thought of how the next day his sister would run along the beach, flying this kite. Last summer, Tinh had also flown kites. But when he'd turned ten at Lunar New Year, he'd left that childhood behind. Now, during the long days of summer vacation, it was his job to help Ba with the fishing.

"Hold here," he said to Lan.

Lan put her small finger on the paper while Tinh glued.

"You need more string for a tail," he said when the paper was in place. "And some bits of cloth to tie on to the string."

Just then, Tinh heard the shouts of Trang Ton, Dong, and Anh and then someone shushing them. Then, Tinh heard another sound-like a giant mosquito. He stood up to look. Zooming ahead of the four boys came a miniature red car. Tinh stepped back. The car drove itself. It ran up the dusty path and across the flagstones of the courtyard as if by magic.

The little kids stopped their war games to watch. Adults leaned out the temple doors, fingers to their lips.

"Want to try, Tinh?" Trang Ton held out a small gray box. "Here, you just push this button to go forward, this one to go back. These"-he touched two more buttons-make the car go left and right."

Tinh reached for the remote control. It was heavier than it looked. He tapped the button on the left, and the car drove toward a palm tree. He maneuvered the car around the base of the tree. He drove it to the edge of the stone steps, then backed it up. He loved the feeling of power in his hands.

"Now it's my turn," said Phu, one of Trang Ton's younger cousins.

Tinh handed over the box. This car was a diamond the monk didn't know about. No one in the village could afford a remote controlled car. Trang Ton had an uncle who'd escaped by boat to America. That uncle worked in an office and sent back money and gifts like the soccer ball and the car. The uncle's generosity enabled Trang Ton's family to live in a brick house instead of a hut made of bamboo.

The bell sounded three times, and Phu held his finger over the remote control, poised for action. All eyes were on the red car, now half submerged in a pile of faded bougainvillea flowers. The vibrations stopped, and Phu backed the car up.

The adults emerged from the temple, talking and laughing among themselves. As the nuns spread a feast of fruit on a long table set up in the courtyard, Tinh turned his attention from Trang Ton's red car. He loaded his arms with vanilla mangoes, finger bananas, a stick of sugarcane, and a bunch of longan. He plucked a round longan fruit from the stem and sunk his teeth into the hard skin. The fruit burst open, white and sweet.

Publishers Weekly

As in Silk Umbrellas, Marsden introduces a child from another culture undergoing a taxing transition. Based on the boyhood experiences of Thay Phap Niem, now a Buddhist monk, the novel centers on a 10-year-old in postwar Vietnam. Tinh now spends his summer working alongside his father, fishing in their handmade bamboo boat, but he can't help daydreaming about the remote-controlled car his friends are playing with. When a brutal storm hits and Tinh's younger sister is injured because Tinh doesn't act fast enough, he feels responsible-and when he fails to protect the boat, panicking along with the others on the beach at the sight of the huge waves, his father holds him responsible. How can Tinh tell his father that he has saved the toy car instead? Facing consequences far greater than those meted out to most of his fictional American peers, Tinh learns to balance his duties and to appreciate, also, the perpetual smile of the Buddha in the temple. This novel is most rewarding for its graceful unfolding of differences-Tinh always feels a little remote from the reader-and the chance it affords to spend time in a community guided by Buddhist values. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
This slender, middle grade story is a collaboration between Marsden and a Buddhist monk, Thay Phap Niem, and is based on the latter's childhood experiences in Vietnam. (See Marsden's other culturally specific collaboration, The Jade Dragon, written with Virginia Shin-Mui Loh.) Tinh lives in a fishing community in Vietnam and helps his father. He has the best of intentions, but there is much to distract him—kites to be flown, soccer games in the sand, and a red toy car belonging to a cousin. When a typhoon hits the coastline, Tinh is charged with fastening his father's fishing boat. Frightened by the waves, he runs away and fails to tie up the boat. Instead in a gesture both childlike and laden with his own small longings, he sees the toy car lying in the sand and brings it home. Not only is the boat left stranded, but Tinh's sister Lan is injured. He is filled with guilt and is particularly distraught at having been unable to rescue the image of Quan Ahm (Vietnamese for Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion) from the prow of the boat. Marsden's imagery is often beautiful, capturing perfectly the emotion of the moment, as with the guava tree felled by the storm. Fiction for young readers often demands a balance between ambiguity and clarity, which can be difficult to attain,. A little ambiguity gives momentum to a story; too much gets in the way. Occasionally, in this dance between text and reader, the dialogue feels overly directed. The book's strength lies in the way it captures a young boy's relationship with his physical world in all its richness, his internal emotional world, and the deeply embedded spiritual world that Tinh comes to glimpse, all in the smallcontainer of a sweet, gentle tale. a glossary, pronunciation guide, and an author's note are included. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7- This graceful narrative is based in part on Niêm's childhood in Vietnam. Buddhist concepts are gently introduced and explained in the context of the story, but, more importantly, they are reflected in the tone and style. Tinh may be more spiritual than many of the youngsters in his village, but, at 10, he is still a child. He wants to play with his friends and he covets his cousin's fancy toys. At the same time, he has started to take on many adult responsibilities and is proud to work with his Ba catching fish to feed and support his family. When a storm hits his village, his father entrusts Tinh to secure their boat, but the boy panics and fails to do so. In reality, there was little that could have been done under the circumstances, but he clings to the hope that he can salvage it and win back his father's confidence. The sense of duty that he feels leads him to rethink his actions and his priorities. Cultural references are beautifully integrated into this lovely coming-of-age story.-Ernie Bond, Salisbury University, MD

Kirkus Reviews
At age ten, Tinh begins to assume the responsibilities of an adult-worshipping, working and supporting the family along with his fisherman father. When a huge storm wrecks his village and buries the family's boat, Tinh must pull himself together and make amends for running from the storm and not performing his duties. The Buddha's "diamonds," those things that are more important than earthly belongings, help remind him of his blessings and the priorities of life. His family has known war, hard work and disasters, but in each case, they have managed to rise above them and succeed. Tinh experiences the range of feelings of a boy no longer a child-shame, loss, joy, obedience, fear and the weight of fulfilling the role of a proper son to his ancestors and extended family. Aimed at a more sophisticated audience of transitional readers, this will have to be booktalked. However, those who take it up will want Tinh to succeed and will be astonished at his duties at such a young age. A glossary and author's notes allow the reader to learn the vocabulary and setting of this deeply cultural Vietnamese story. (Fiction. 8-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763633806
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 2/12/2008
  • Pages: 112
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 7.32 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Carolyn Marsden says that THE BUDDHA'S DIAMONDS was inspired by a talk given by Thây Phâp Niêm to the children of Deer Park Monastery. She lives in La Jolla, California.

Thây Phâp Niêm’s childhood experiences form the basis of THE BUDDHA'S DIAMONDS. A year after the storm depicted in the story, he escaped postwar Vietnam and became a Buddhist monk. All of his royalties will be donated to the Touching and Helping Programs in Vietnam.

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Read an Excerpt

She held out two pieces of bamboo and some pink paper, a bit of string, and a bottle of glue.

"You brought everything," he said.

"I remembered what you needed."

Tinh stood on tiptoe and looked toward the soccer field. If there was a soccer game oing, he certainly didn't want to spend time with his sister. But it was probably too late to join the game. Plus his cousins would tease him for staying in the temple.

Tinh sat down on a low wall and fastened Lan's bamboo sticks into the shape of a cross. When the sticks were firmly tied, he held the skeleton of the kite to the sky, imagining it floating in the soft blue. Lan wiggled in anticipation. As Tinh lowered the bamboo to his lap and stretched the pink paper over the cross, he thought of how the next day his sister would run along the beach, flying this kite. Last summer, Tinh had also flown kites. But when he'd turned ten at Lunar New Year, he'd left that childhood behind. Now, during the long days of summer vacation, it was his job to help Ba with the fishing.

"Hold here," he said to Lan.

Lan put her small finger on the paper while Tinh glued.

"You need more string for a tail," he said when the paper was in place. "And some bits of cloth to tie on to the string."

Just then, Tinh heard the shouts of Trang Ton, Dong, and Anh and then someone shushing them. Then, Tinh heard another sound-like a giant mosquito. He stood up to look. Zooming ahead of the four boys came a miniature red car. Tinh stepped back. The car drove itself. It ran up the dusty path and across the flagstones of the courtyard as if by magic.

The little kids stopped their war games to watch. Adults leaned out the temple doors, fingers to their lips.

"Want to try, Tinh?" Trang Ton held out a small gray box. "Here, you just push this button to go forward, this one to go back. These"-he touched two more buttons-make the car go left and right."

Tinh reached for the remote control. It was heavier than it looked. He tapped the button on the left, and the car drove toward a palm tree. He maneuvered the car around the base of the tree. He drove it to the edge of the stone steps, then backed it up. He loved the feeling of power in his hands.

"Now it's my turn," said Phu, one of Trang Ton's younger cousins.

Tinh handed over the box. This car was a diamond the monk didn't know about. No one in the village could afford a remote controlled car. Trang Ton had an uncle who'd escaped by boat to America. That uncle worked in an office and sent back money and gifts like the soccer ball and the car. The uncle's generosity enabled Trang Ton's family to live in a brick house instead of a hut made of bamboo.

The bell sounded three times, and Phu held his finger over the remote control, poised for action. All eyes were on the red car, now half submerged in a pile of faded bougainvillea flowers. The vibrations stopped, and Phu backed the car up.

The adults emerged from the temple, talking and laughing among themselves. As the nuns spread a feast of fruit on a long table set up in the courtyard, Tinh turned his attention from Trang Ton's red car. He loaded his arms with vanilla mangoes, finger bananas, a stick of sugarcane, and a bunch of longan. He plucked a round longan fruit from the stem and sunk his teeth into the hard skin. The fruit burst open, white and sweet.

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Simple, Elegant, Meaningful

    This book is a simple, elegant read. Sparse yet interesting descriptions fill in the details as Tinh seeks to right the wrong that he has committed and to bring honor to his family. A lesson learned in his temple flows through his mind - the idea of even ordinary life being filled with blessings - diamonds - that can be treasured despite hardship. He carries that concept with him and takes courage because of it.

    Though the writing is beautiful, it is also simple enough so that younger readers can enjoy this story. It is also clear and perfect to use as a mentor text for description. The physical details of Tinh's journey would be perfect examples of adding a sense of place and atmosphere to student writing.

    The depiction of Vietnamese culture is also accurate and clear. This is a wonderful book to help often-underrepresented Asian students celebrate their heritage as well as to allow all students to learn some basic facts about Asian culture.

    I added this to my classroom library and know that my students will stretch their minds while reading.

    Thanks to Candlewick Press for providing this book for a fair review. I was not required to write a positive review.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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