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A Different Pond
A Different Pond
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Reviewed Titles

A Different Pond

by Bao Phi
Illustrated by Thi Bui

A 2018 Caldecott Honor Book that Kirkus Reviews calls "a must-read for our times," A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event - a long-ago fishing trip. Graphic novelist Thi Bui and acclaimed poet Bao Phi deliver a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son - and between cultures, old and new. As a young boy, Bao and his father awoke early, hours before his father's long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao's father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. Thi Bui's striking, evocative art paired with Phi's expertly crafted prose has earned this powerful picture books six starred reviews and numerous awards.

PublisherCapstone Young Readers
Age Level6-8 Years
Reading LevelGrades 2-3
GenreRealistic Fiction
Trim Size9 x 11
Page Count32
Paper Over Board



NBC News, Books Featuring Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders for Kids and Teens - Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

"Nationally recognized spoken word poet and community activist Bao Phi, together with graphic novelist Thi Bui, recalls a story about waking up early to go fishing with his father at a small pond in Minneapolis before his father went to work. Unlike other fishermen, however, they were fishing to feed their family, not for fun. While fishing, Phi's father told him about another pond that he knew — one in Vietnam." - NBC News, Books Featuring Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders for Kids and Teens

May 30, 2017

TODAY, "7 books kids should read this summer, according to a school librarian"

"The book shows the interconnection of family and the inexorable way that generational history impacts the present." - TODAY, "7 books kids should read this summer, according to a school librarian"

May 24, 2018

Publishers Weekly

"STARRED REVIEW! Graphic novel panels and strong figures give the pages the air of a documentary as Phi celebrates an unexpected superhero: a father who endures a strange new culture, works to support his family, cherishes time with his son, and draws no attention to the sacrifices he’s made." - Publishers Weekly

June 9, 2017


Kirkus Reviews

"STARRED REVIEW! A fishing trip is not just a fishing trip in this poignant, semiautobiographical tale. . . .Together, Phi's gentle, melodic prose and Bui's evocative art, presented in brushy and vividly colored panels and double-page spreads, rise above the melancholy to tell a powerful, multilayered story about family, memory, and the costs of becoming a refugee. Spare and simple, a must-read for our times." - Kirkus Reviews

June 15, 2017

School Library Journal - Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN

"STARRED REVIEW! This gorgeous tale about a father/son fishing trip shows the interconnectedness of family and the inexorable way that generational history impacts the present. . . .Bui’s cinematic illustrations make use of panels and weighted lines, evoking the perfect background or facial expression for each piece of text. The text placement and composition of the illustrations allow each occurrence or observation to be its own distinct event, stringing together the small, discrete moments that make up a life, a memory, and a history into a cohesive whole. This gentle coming-of-age story is filled with loving, important aspects of the immigrant experience and is a first purchase for all libraries." - School Library Journal

August 1, 2017

Booklist - Sarah Hunter

"STARRED REVIEW! Phi’s bittersweet story of the resourcefulness of an immigrant family is lovingly illustrated in Bui’s evocative artwork. . . .This wistful, beautifully illustrated story will resonate not only with immigrant families but any family that has faced struggle." - Booklist

July 1, 2017


Horn Book - Minh Lê

"STARRED REVIEW! Hours before sunrise, a father and son go fishing for that night’s meal. So begins this powerfully understated picture book, which shifts the focus of the refugee narrative from the harrowing journey to the reality awaiting the family members once they reach their destination (in this case, the United States). With evocative detail and a keen ear for metaphor...Phi hints at the family’s joys and struggles. . . .The father and son return home that morning with a fish but, more importantly, a fond memory that will help make this new country feel like home. The ponds may be different here, but the water reflects life just the same." - Horn Book

September 1, 2017

Shelf Awareness - Nell Beram

"STARRED REVIEW! A Different Pond isn't a story in the traditional sense--there's no wedge-like event to disrupt the narrative's flow. But conflicts that happened offscreen shape the narrative into one family's story. . . .Bao Phi, a poet, gives the narrator's words an occasional lyricism. . . .Playing off the writing's grace is Thi Bui's art, in which characters tend to be rendered more simply than their painterly backgrounds." - Shelf Awareness

August 4, 2017

School Library Journal, "25 Titles and Resources To Explore the Vietnam War" - Maggie Knapp

"As told by poet Phi’s spare language, an unnamed Vietnamese boy joins his father for a predawn fishing outing on a Minnesota pond. The father’s fractured English sounds like “gentle rain,” even as he alludes to a different pond in troubled Vietnam, before he fled Saigon. Bui’s deep blues and slightly rough-edged illustrations perfectly complement this touching and hopeful story." - School Library Journal, "25 Titles and Resources To Explore the Vietnam War"

November 22, 2017


Calling Caldecott, Horn Book - Martha V. Parravano

"I’m not usually all about the cover, but when I saw this cover, I stopped looking at all the other books near it and swooped in to check it out. It’s not your average picture book cover, right? Has more a feel of a graphic novel cover, maybe? It’s certainly unusual, and the cover is no bait-and-switch: that quality of freshness and originality continues after you open the book and begin to read." - Calling Caldecott, Horn Book

April 13, 2017

Common Sense Media - Jan Carr

"The beauty's in the subtle, evocative detail. This is a moving father-son story as well as an immigrant/refugee story, and a shining example of picture books at their best. . . .This tale is so artfully rendered in text and art, readers will be very glad they came along on this intimate family fishing trip." - Common Sense Media

August 1, 2017

Publishers Weekly, "Children’s Books Exploring the Refugee Crisis" - Natasha Gilmore

"Phi’s autobiographical picture book in verse explores the struggles of a Vietnamese immigrant family." - Publishers Weekly, "Children’s Books Exploring the Refugee Crisis"

July 13, 2017


Booklist - Ilene Cooper

"Top 10 Diverse Picture Book. This wistful, beautifully illustrated story describes how a Vietnamese American man and his young son head out before dawn to fish for their supper in a nearby lake." - Booklist

February 1, 2018

Los Angeles Times - Matt de la Peña, Author of Love

"...One of my favorite picture books of the last couple years because of its wonderful layers. Not only does it serve as a window into a Vietnamese American experiencefor me, it also serves as a window for the young protagonist in the story, as he wonders about his father’s life back in Vietnam." - Los Angeles Times

August 10, 2018

Edutopia - Kevin Wong

"...Bao Phi delivers the story of an immigrant family that honors its past while navigating a new home." - Edutopia

June 18, 2018


CCBlogC, Cooperative Children's Book Center - Megan Schliesman

"A Vietnamese American boy’s predawn fishing outing with his dad is the subject of a narrative shaped by an exquisite accounting of details. So much beyond the action is conveyed through beautifully weighted sentences. . . .The evocative art masterfully and movingly conveys details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story." - CCBlogC, Cooperative Children's Book Center

December 4, 2017

Cool Mom Picks - Kate Etue

" of the best picture books of 2017, period. This collaboration between graphic novelist Thi Bui and poet Bao Phi is the moving, heart-tugging work you’d expect. Through the experience of an early morning father-son fishing trip, this book beautifully depicts the difficulties many immigrant families experience." - Cool Mom Picks

June 13, 2018

Kartika Review - Simi Kang

"Like much of Phi’s poetry, this book is simultaneous, multiple, about class and race and family, thick with love and loud in its subtleties, themselves a significant piece of the collaborative work of author and illustrator. . . .As Phi explained, while on the surface A Different Pond presents as a simple parent-child narrative, it is, at heart, a refugee tale." - Kartika Review

June 30, 2017


The Nerdy Book Club - Don Vu

"When I was a young kid in school, I would’ve loved to have read a story about other Vietnamese people. To be honest, I would’ve loved to have read anything remotely close to representing any Asian American experience. . . .Far too often, we neglect to tell the stories of the people who make up our schools and communities. When we do that, we are sending the message that you are not as important as others, that you live in the margins of the mainstream…that your story is not worth being told. After reading A Different Pond, it took me a while to process what this story meant to me as a reader, a Vietnamese American reader. I connected with the characters in ways that I’m not sure I can explain." - The Nerdy Book Club

April 30, 2018

Brightly, "17 New Authors of Color Writing Much-Needed Stories for Kids" - Charnale Gordon

"A moving read. . . .It’s easy to tell Phi is a poet from his beautiful and powerful prose. He intricately weaves together the past and present while telling important and poignant stories." - Brightly, "17 New Authors of Color Writing Much-Needed Stories for Kids"

October 6, 2017

Public Books - Marah Gubar, Children's & YA Literature Section Editor

"A seemingly simple tale about a boy getting up before dawn to go fishing with his father is gradually enriched by a wealth of small textual and visual details that vividly evoke the lived experience of growing up poor as the child of Vietnamese refugees. . . .What’s most impressive is how delicate a balance the story strikes. The painful necessity of a workday that begins before dawn, of what it takes to put food on the table, coexists with moments of adventure, peace, and intimacy between father and son." - Public Books

September 29, 2017


Knowledge Quest, AASL - Maureen Schlosser

"A Different Pond raises awareness of the financial struggles some refugees face. . . .We see throughout the pages how hard the family works to live in America. We also see how much they love each other. Readers will feel compassion for refugees after reading this remarkable book." - Knowledge Quest, AASL

August 14, 2018

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - EB

"Despite the tinge of sadness, this tale (based on the author’s family experiences) is quietly uplifting. The family struggles, but it manages, and the shadowy predawn peace infuses the father/son relationship with contentment. The young audience will appreciate Bui’s visual transformation of a gritty urban waterside into a scene of moonlit adventure, but older children of a more thoughtful bent will also discern that many people are awake in the dark on a mission to get by. . . .In his author’s note, Phi offers background on his father and their fishing trips “for food, not for sport,” which he admits to appreciating more as an adult than he did as a child. That’s something worth talking about." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

September 1, 2017

Imagination Soup - Melissa Taylor

"The illustrations and prose help us feel the stillness of the early morning hours and the strong bond between father and son. . . .This moving autobiographical picture book of an immigrant family gives us much to appreciate and ponder." - Imagination Soup

September 5, 2017


Calling Caldecott, Horn Book - Erika Long

"What happens when a cartoonist/graphic novelist is tasked with illustrating a picture book? The result in this case is a phenomenal piece of work that intensely captures mood and tells an unforgettable story of endurance. . . .What a story of hope! But more importantly for the Caldecott committee, a perfect execution of combining picture-book techniques with those of graphic novels. I am impressed by how Bui seamlessly tells an authentic story of family and tradition, evoking a particular mood and theme, both of which last the length of the book and beyond." - Calling Caldecott, Horn Book

November 27, 2017

We Are Teachers - Lindsay Barrett

"When a boy and his father rise before dawn to fish for dinner, the father spends the time reminiscing about fishing as a child in Vietnam. This is another gorgeous narrative for comprehension strategy instruction that is also a great writing mentor text." - We Are Teachers

July 11, 2018

Psychology Today, "Vietnamese American Refugee Stories Win Acclaim" - Ravi Chandra, M.D., D.F.A.P.A.

"Phi tells the story of an early morning fishing trip with his father in Minnesota, interwoven with subtle tells of the difficulty of their working-class refugee life, the trauma of war, and the warmth of family bonds. . . .Thi Bui’s illustrations bring the warmth and tenderness of Phi’s childhood memories to life. Together, the words and pictures combine to create a window to this young boy’s world, creating the possibility for empathy, understanding and care..." - Psychology Today, "Vietnamese American Refugee Stories Win Acclaim"

January 24, 2018


100 Scope Notes

"Caldecott Honor Prediction What do you think of when you think of a pre-dawn fishing trip? Darkness. Quiet. The world slowly coming alive with color. Thi Bui captures all of this in her illustrations for A Different Pond. Bold brushstrokes echo the weight of this family story, as color builds to toward the conclusion." - 100 Scope Notes

December 19, 2017

BookPage - Jill Lorenzini

"Solemn and truthful, A Different Pond gives us one day through which to view the life of a refugee family working to thrive in a new country. On an artistic level, A Different Pond is a collaborative success. Based on his own childhood experience, author Bao Phi narrates as a child would, with straightforward language, enhanced with moments of poetic description. . . .Graphic artist Thi Bui...tells a compelling story in the faces of her characters. Bui’s renderings are colorful but low-key, giving a sense of calm, of well-worn habits, of family sharing. . . .Bui and Phi’s book would fit perfectly into school units on multiculturalism and the refugee experience. We all have stories of difficulty and obstacles; A Different Pond is a profound reminder of what we do every day to lift our families up and how we tell—and cherish—those stories." - BookPage

August 1, 2017

Barnes & Noble Kids blog - Lauren Krueger

"The illustrations tenderly convey the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the young boy as he spends this special time with his father." - Barnes & Noble Kids blog

March 20, 2018


Raise Them Righteous - Jennifer Miller

"Socially relevant, artistic, and lyrical, this book belongs on everyone’s bookshelf. A Different Pond is a story that needs to be told and both writer and illustrator render it with specificity and depth. This is an immigrant story like none I have read before and I am so glad books like this are available for young people." - Raise Them Righteous

October 26, 2018

A Fuse 8 Production, School Library Journal - Elizabeth Bird

"In the book a boy goes fishing with his father. That would normally be the kind of thing you’d find in a lot of father-son bonding books, but the difference here is that to get to the water they have to climb over road barriers. The two are in Minneapolis at a spot not specifically designated for fishing. They do it to supplement the parents’ income and refrigerator in a practical manner before the dad goes off to the first of his two jobs. Phi explains that his parents fled Vietnam after the war and faced prejudice and potential poverty when they settled in the States. Reading the book, I wondered how clear it would be to child readers what was going on. For an adult, the moment when they climb over the road barriers and go down the hill to the water is a big clue. For kids, they may or may not pay attention to the economics behind the father’s decision. They might just think it’s cool that a dad would go early morning fishing with his son before his job. Whatever the case, it’s a great book." - A Fuse 8 Production, School Library Journal

April 4, 2017

Autumn 2017 Kids' Indie Next List - Shannon McMaster, The Bookman, Grand Haven, MI

"A strong, quiet story about love, family connection, and the way community is built on small shared moments. Bao Phi’s clear prose tells a story where perhaps not much seems to happen, but in which the whole world is illuminated for a child by his father. Thi Bui’s illustrations bring the reader into the life of a boy, a family, and the community where they live." - Autumn 2017 Kids' Indie Next List

August 11, 2017


Chicago Tribune - Nara Schoenberg

"The early scenes of father and son together under inky-blue skies studded with stars inspire awe. The lovingly drawn details of simple, crowded rooms call forth the warmth of home and family. You don’t quite realize that author and illustrator are building to a real conclusion, one of the many delights of this powerful immigration story." - Chicago Tribune

November 27, 2017

Foreword Reviews

"Simple yet profound, A Different Pond, by poet Bao Phi, shares the quiet strength of a Vietnamese family struggling to put food on the table, in a tale inspired by his own childhood experiences as a refugee in the mid-1970s. The night sky sparkles as the sun gradually rises in Thi Bui’s expressive illustrations as a father shares a quiet moment with his young son, fishing under a city bridge while the town sleeps." - Foreword Reviews

July 1, 2017

Star Tribune - Laurie Hertzel

"Minneapolis writer Bao Phi is a poet, and this lovely book — told through the eyes of the little boy — employs the same economy of language and vivid imagery as any fine poem. Themes of immigration, hard work, racism and the uniting power of nature are touched on lightly and naturally. Thi Bui’s nighttime illustrations glow." - Star Tribune

July 10, 2017


Pioneer Press, "Books from Minnesota authors you’ll want on your holiday gift li - Mary Ann Grossmann

"Bao Phi’s memories of getting up in the dark to go fishing with his dad earned starred reviews from every major literary journal. A native of Vietnam, Bao Phi began this book as a poem and was urged by fellow members of the local children’s lit community to turn it into a book. . . .Lovely prose, lovely pictures." - Pioneer Press, "Books from Minnesota authors you’ll want on your holiday gift li

November 26, 2017

M is for Movement - Janine Macbeth, M is for Movement editorial board member and author

"It’s a gift to witness Bao Phi’s storytelling spread from spoken word to children’s books in this beautifully told and illustrated story. . . .It touches a wealth of experiences—immigrant, refugee, Asian Pacific American, and the realities of the working poor. If the book doesn’t directly reference you or your family’s lived experience, it will strengthen your Solidarity Heart." - M is for Movement

December 12, 2017

Pragmatic Mom - Mia Wenjen

" gives quiet dignity to poverty experienced by new immigrants. . . .The illustrations impart a sense of tranquility with a minimalist color scheme. The expressions on the faces of the characters also tell the story of finding moments of happiness and joy in small moments despite hardship and poverty. In the final pages, the family quietly appreciates precious moments of time spent together, and this can summarize the Asian refugee experience: hard work, family, and gratitude." - Pragmatic Mom

December 13, 2017


Boston Athenæum? - Dani Crickman

"Told through the perspective of a child character, A Different Pond echoes aspects of Vietnamese immigrant experience portrayed in The Best We Could Do in a way that’s accessible for a young audience. And most important for a picturebook: Bui’s detailed illustrations are captivating, conveying a distinct sense of time and place and capturing the quiet poignancy of Phi’s prose." - Boston Athenæum?

September 1, 2017

Pragmatic Mom - Mia Wenjen

"This is a dignified portrait of new immigrants and how hard they work to get established in a new country. Despite working around the clock, the family is grateful for what they have and for their time together." - Pragmatic Mom

March 26, 2018

Booklist - Julia Smith

"Top 10 Picture Books about Finding Home. On a predawn fishing trip, a boy learns about his Vietnamese father’s past, gaining an appreciation for his resourcefulness and their lives together in America." - Booklist

July 1, 2018


Brightly, "The Best Children’s and YA Books of August 2017"

"A beautiful and powerful story about family, culture, sacrifice, memories of home, and life as a refugee. Phi's smooth prose and Bui's evocative illustrations combine to tell the story of a simple but profound fishing trip between father and son that carries with it so many of the hopes, dreams, and challenges of the immigrant experience." - Brightly, "The Best Children’s and YA Books of August 2017"

August 4, 2017

A Fuse 8 Production, School Library Journal - Elizabeth Bird

"This book not only looks good and reads beautifully but it shows the practical day-to-day solutions of surviving in America for some families." - A Fuse 8 Production, School Library Journal

April 4, 2017

Read On Wisconsin, Cooperative Children's Book Center

"A Vietnamese American boy’s predawn fishing outing with his dad is the subject of a narrative shaped by an exquisite accounting of details. So much beyond the action is conveyed through beautifully weighted sentences. . . .The evocative art masterfully and movingly reveals details of character, setting, and action while superbly reflecting the warmth and intimacy of the story." - Read On Wisconsin, Cooperative Children's Book Center

August 1, 2018


San Francisco Gate - Susan Faust

"Telling turns of phrase appear with every page turn. The father’s broken English “sounds like a gentle rain,” and “his broken teeth shine white in the dark.” Also lyrical are paintings, deep blue under a starlit sky. Insets add lovely detail that conjure up memories, struggle and dreams. Focused on just one day, this poignant story makes a powerful statement about what it’s like to be a refugee, an immigrant, a new American." - San Francisco Gate

January 25, 2017

International Examiner - Tamiko Nimura

"What an exquisite book about immigrant family life, aching through lovingly rendered details. From the peeling labels on the reused Miracle Whip jars, to the Spanish/English signs on the 24-hour bait shop, to the young boy who asks why his father must work two jobs – this is a picture book unlike most others I’ve ever seen. . . .From poet Bao Phi’s lovely descriptions of minnows that swim “like silver arrows” to Thi Bui’s gorgeous, emotive illustrations in muted blues and greens, this is a quietly powerful book that will resonate across and beyond immigrant and refugee families." - International Examiner

February 28, 2018

Celebrate Picture Books

"As deep and quietly moving as a fishing pond, Bao Phi’s tribute to family, parental sacrifice, and the profound understanding of children wrenches your heart with its beautiful and honest language and touching details. Phi uses the fishing trip—which at first seems to be simply a fun outing for father and son, but is in fact an act of survival—to relate one family’s relationship with their adopted country while also delving into the universal bond between children and parents or other adults. . . .A Different Pond is an exquisite story with wisdom and insight that will impact readers during quiet story times at home and in the classroom. The book would be a warm and welcome addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves." - Celebrate Picture Books

February 14, 2018


Christian Library Journal - Leroy Hommerding

"This 2018 Caldecott Honor Book brings together issues of diversity, culture, and immigration without using platitudes. The personal story offers many positive messages about family values that highlight the relationship between father and son and between cultures, old and new. Illustrator Thi Bui’s art offers a striking exhibit of Phi’s prose through illustrations with depth and a quiet, moving emotion." - Christian Library Journal

July 2, 2018

Phuoc Thi Minh Tran, storyteller, and award-winning author

"What impresses me most about reading Bao Phi’s A Different Pond is the intertwining of important values of Vietnamese culture throughout the pages:  family, faith, food, hope, and belief. The bonding between father-son is incredible and inspiring. The young boy feels trusted, important, smart, strong, capable, and loved. His father has shaped who he will become later in life and to always DREAM BIG. . . .A “Picture Perfect” and welcome addition to any refugee families and beyond." - Phuoc Thi Minh Tran, storyteller, and award-winning author

June 29, 2017

Park Rapids Enterprise, "Two new books urge reflection about immigration" - Sally Wizik Wills

"The story is quiet and gentle. . . .In the author’s note, Phi, whose family came to Minnesota as refugees from Vietnam, says he has written the story to honor the struggles of his parents, and to acknowledge the history which was a part of their lives. . . .These books encourage us to reflect on a difficult and divisive part of our recent national history. They also encourage us to think about recent immigrants in a time when their presence in the United States is part of a national debate." - Park Rapids Enterprise, "Two new books urge reflection about immigration"

September 23, 2017


News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) - Susie Wilde

"Strong similes and poignant details reveal the warmth shared by a father and son on a cold early morning fishing adventure. The first-person narrative describes the family’s impoverishment, the father’s peaceful fishing in “another pond” and his refugee flight from Vietnam." - News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

August 7, 2018

Forest Lake Times - Jason DeMoe, community editor

"“A Different Pond” is written to be read by school-aged children, but can and should be enjoyed by adults as well. The discussion that will most likely follow is an important one that could lead to some big questions. That is, in large part, the beauty of what makes “A Different Pond” more than just another kid’s book. Both Phi and Bui should be applauded for their successful efforts in tackling an important and sensitive subject in a way that breeds a deeper understanding of an often overlooked struggle." - Forest Lake Times

November 28, 2017

Bao Phi

Bao Phi

Bao Phi was born in Vietnam and raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis.  He is an author, a poet, a community organizer, and a father.

Go to the Author’s Page →

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