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My Father’s Boat by Sherry Garland is the story of a young boy who goes fishing with his father. As they work, he learns about his heritage, and his father’s father, who is back in Vietnam.

When I chose this book for our class read-aloud time, I wasn’t sure if it would hold my students’ attention. My students are between the ages of three and five, and they tend to prefer funny, silly stories. However, I wanted to expand their horizons and really get them thinking, so I went ahead with My Father’s Boat.

I’m really glad I chose this book. First of all, the illustrations by Ted Rand are absolutely beautiful, and the kids really loved them, even calling out “Ooo…pretty!” as I turned the pages. Most importantly, the story engaged them. They sat in silence as I read, with all eyes focused on the book. Garland sets the scene beautifully, and you can almost smell the saltwater and sweat on the boy’s brow. After the story, we had some really good discussion about the boy in the story, his father, and his grandfather. It was challenging to explain to my students the civil war in Vietnam that separated this family, but they seemed to have a basic understanding, and they were hopeful that the boy could go to Vietnam and meet his grandfather one day. Some students also shared what their parents do for a living, and what it was like to go to work with mom or dad.

My Father’s Boat is not lighthearted or silly like many books for preschoolers, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read to this age group. I highly recommend it for ages three and up, but be prepared to discuss and answer questions as you go along. This book is a great tool to help children think more about the world around them, and to consider family and life situations that are different than their own.

My Father’s Boat is 40 pages (paperback) and is published by Scholastic.

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