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Water Buffalo Days: Growing Up in Vietnam

Water Buffalo Days: Growing Up in Vietnam

by Quang Nhuong Huynh, Jean & Mou-sien Tseng (Illustrator), Jean Tseng (Illustrator), Mou-Sien Tseng (Illustrator), Jean Tseng (Illustrator)

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As a young boy growing up in the hills of central Vietnam, Nhuong’s companion was Tank, the family water buffalo. When bullies harassed Nhuong, Tank sent them packing. When a wild tiger threatened the entire village, Tank defeated it. He led the herd and adopted a lonely puppy. Tank was Nhuong’s best friend.

Nhuong gives readers a glimpse of himself


As a young boy growing up in the hills of central Vietnam, Nhuong’s companion was Tank, the family water buffalo. When bullies harassed Nhuong, Tank sent them packing. When a wild tiger threatened the entire village, Tank defeated it. He led the herd and adopted a lonely puppy. Tank was Nhuong’s best friend.

Nhuong gives readers a glimpse of himself when he was their age, and tells a thrilling story of how he and Tank together faced the dangers of life in the Vietnamese jungle which was their home.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 3-5This story starts off slowly, but quickly picks up speed as the author remembers fondly his childhood days spent in the central highlands of Vietnam. He describes the people and animals of his village, focusing on his family's two water buffaloes that are his favorite playmates. After the first one dies, the boy's father finds a young replacement, Tank. Quang Nhuong is delighted and describes various escapades he shares with the bull, playing hide-and-seek, an encounter with a crocodile, and a battle with an otter. Most of the incidents described are entertaining and readers will learn fascinating information about the importance of these animals in this culture. A charming beginning chapter book about a child growing up in a distant land that will appeal to animal lovers everywhere. The Tsengs' soft sketches show Tank, his young master, and the various villagers mentioned in the text.Mary M. Hopf, Los Angeles Public Library

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.25(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Missing Water Jug

My family owned a small herd of water buffaloes, which consisted of two females and a male named Water jug. The bull got his name because his big and round stomach resembled the kind of gourds we used as water jugs. Water jug was a good worker and a good friend.

He had never been sick in his life, but when old age caught up with Water jug, he died little by little, like a lamp burning its last drops of oil. For several weeks before his death he could not walk, and we had to bring food and water to him.

On the morning we found him lying dead, we buried him in the graveyard, as we had done for all the dead of our family.

Long after old Water jug's death, I still missed him, and I often sat at his graveside remembering the good times we had spent together. During the rainy season, he had carried me on his back to the rice field, where I fished.

One day while sitting on his back and fishing for sword fish, I became restless. Normally the pond was full of sword fish, but that day I waited and waited and none of them would bite. I was making an earthworm jump on the surface of the pond to lure the fish, when suddenly I saw a huge, snakelike head shoot out of the water and snap at it. I was terrified and almost ordered Water jug to back up and run. But soon the rest of a green turtle appeared and snapped the fishing line with a single stroke of her foreleg.

It took me a minute to recover, as I had thought the head belonged to a huge horse snake, the most savage reptile in the area. And at that moment old Water jug lowered his head and snorted, ready to defend both of us.

I missed old Water jug especially whenit rained all day and frogs croaked loudly in the rice field. I wished I could go there on his back to catch those tasty amphibians. The two female water buffaloes we owned, like most water buffalo cows, were not trained to have people on their backs. And my parents would not let me go to the field alone, because they did not want me walking on all those slippery paths. So I had to stay home, listening to the endless croaking and missing old Water jug more and more.

Meet the Author

Huynh Quang Nhuong also wrote The Land I Lost, which was published in five languages and received numerous awards. He was born in Mytho, Vietnam, and now lives in Columbia, Missouri.

People often ask what it is like for two artists to collaborate on the illustrations of a book. We think it is an exciting challenge and a learning experience. Throughout this process we share and develop our different ideas. We are constantly amazed that two minds can have so much in common and yet be so different, but we strongly believe that two minds are better than one.

"After carefully studying and exchanging our preliminary ideas about a manuscript, we work separately on thumbnail sketches. When our sketches are ready, we review them together and determine the most suitable drawing for each page. Then we begin to work on the full-size sketches. We focus on style, pose, expression, color, texture—every detail is carefully considered. We also keep in contact with the editor and author to exchange and discuss ideas. When everybody agrees that the full-size sketches are just right, we go on to finish the illustrations.

"Jean specializes in color, sensation, and effect, while Mou-Sien is more likely to originate ideas about composition. Collaboration means more time and effort, but when the whole process is complete and the final vision appears, it is all worthwhile. We're glad that we make a good team."

Jean and Mou-Sien were classmates at the Fine Art Department of the National Normal University in Taiwan. After graduation, they married and worked as teachers, designers, and illustrators. They also worked for a UNICEF Project in Taiwan, editing and designing 165 picture books-thirty of which they illustrated themselves. Their book Lovely Toys won the 1971 Golden Book Award for the best picturebook illustration. Mou-Sien also won the Golden Goblet Award for Excellent Achievement at Chinese Painting in 1990.

When they immigrated to the U. S. in 1974, they each tried a new profession. Jean was a textile designer and Mou-Sien worked for a film company. After three years, they decided to return to fine arts and illustration.

Jean vividly remembers reading a picture book in a bomb shelter when she was a young girl in Japan during World War II. "My fascination with the picture book let me forget the terrifying world outside. Now that I have the chance to help create these tales, that memory reminds me of the magic and power that can be possible."

The Tsengs live and work in Glen Cove, New York.

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