The Little Girl
Friesen Press (2022)
Reviewed by Kathy Stickles for Reader Views (02/2023)
The Little Girl by H. Pham-Fraser is a beautiful story for young children that helps to impress upon them the importance of identity and how much it is the center of belonging, no matter where you are. I think that this is a story that should be read by or to all children, and adults, to help them understand valuable lessons about how important it is to be accepting of others, even if they are different from you, and also how important it is to be kind.
This is the story of a little girl who leaves Vietnam to come to a new country with her mother. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Canada, a border guard decides that her name is confusing and too long, so he just takes it upon himself to remove part of it. When she arrives at her new school, her teacher feels the same way and chooses to just change this little girl’s name to Helen because it is easier to pronounce and has fewer vowels. In neither case does the adult seem to care about what is best for the child. This little girl is scared and confused by this huge new country and her new home and school. She must learn how to do so many different things, such as speak and write in a new language, and the people who are supposed to be helping will not even allow her to keep her own name and identity.
I found the book engaging but oh so very sad as I watched these new people take away the only thing this child had left besides her mother. It is also a very heartwarming tale as we watch her struggle to be accepted in this new place while also trying to keep a part of herself and her heritage so that she never forgets.
The story is very well-written and addresses so much that is important for those who choose to come to a new country in order to better themselves and their families. As the story is told through the eyes of the little girl rather than an adult, it makes it even more meaningful, in my opinion, as the reader watches how strong this child ends up being. Finally, the illustrations in the book are absolutely beautiful and you can see her sadness in them as well as her joy.
The Little Girl is a wonderful story and I recommend it as a book to be read in schools in order to teach children the true meaning of kindness. I also think that it could teach very valuable lessons, both in and out of a school setting, regarding how important our name is to each of us and how necessary it is to accept a new person into our community and make them feel welcome.
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