________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 8. . . .October 26, 2012


One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2012.
128 pp., trade pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $17.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-927485-02-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-927485-01-9 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Son Thi Anh, Tuyet-Juvenile literature.
Children with disabilities-Hospital care-Canada.
Immigrant children-Vietnam-Juvenile literature.
Immigrant children-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Courage-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Alicia Copp-Mökkönen.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



The whole thing was a big mistake. Had the doctors cut her leg open as they said they would, things would have been bad enough. But instead they had just covered her leg in cement. Before they started fooling around with her leg, at least she had been able to get around. Now she was trapped in this cast, and her leg hurt more than ever before. She should have been satisfied with what she already had instead of trying to reach for the stars.

She drifted off to sleep again, but stabbing pains woke her up. The pain would have been bearable with Dad and Mom there, but Tuyet was all alone. She tried to hold her feelings in, but still the tears coursed down her cheeks.


One Step at a Time continues with the true story of Tuyet, a Vietnamese orphan featured in Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War. (Vol. XVIII, No. 11, November 11, 2011). Tuyet has been adopted by a family in Toronto and faces the challenge of a new language and culture, but she also must contend with surgery on her ankle which was affected by polio. The story begins the night before Tuyet is to enter the hospital for the first time and takes the reader through her time in the hospital, her return home and subsequent fitting for a leg brace and orthopedic shoes so she may walk without crutches.

     The narrative is descriptive, clear and utilizes language accessible to young learners. Photos illustrate very well the people, places and objects described in the story, such as the family home, the hospital and the orthopedic shoes. However the subject matter is not light as the topic of surgery and Tuyet’s fear of the associated pain begins on the second page of the book. And indeed, Tuyet is unable to communicate with the nurses and suffers more than she needs to after the surgery. While this is realistic, it is not subject matter which will captivate or interest young readers. Also, because polio is not mentioned or described until the historical note at the end of the story, and the narrative is sprinkled with flashbacks of the war, it is easy for a young reader to believe Tuyet has suffered from an injury rather than polio. These flashbacks serve to link the book to the previous one, but feature the loss of her mother, the experience of witnessing the explosion of bombs, and feelings of pain. These flashbacks are not well explained or situated. For these reasons, this book is best read as a sequel and is perhaps best suited for educational purposes.

     The story does, however, powerfully capture the frightening experience of entering a hospital for surgery for the first time. The dialogue skillfully illustrates Tuyet’s unfamiliarity with what is happening to her body and what those around her are communicating, invoking deep sympathy from the reader. The author skillfully interweaves the challenges of life as a newcomer with the challenges of overcoming disability. As such, this book would be a valuable tool for initiating discussion in an educational setting.


Alicia Copp-Mökkönen is a teacher, librarian and researcher in education in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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