Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fly Free!

Title: Fly Free!
Author: Roseanne Thong
Illustrator: Enjin Kim Neilan
Copyright Date: 2010
Genre: Fiction
Theme: Vietnam, karma, kindness, cause and effect
Grades: Preschool-3
Awards: 2010-2011 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor, 2011 Bank Street College, The Best Children's Books of the Year (Age 5-9), The Society of School Librarians International 2010 Honor Book Award in "Language Arts - Picture Books," 2011 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award Nominee, 2011-12 Maine Chickadee Award Nomination, 2012 NYSRA Charlotte Award Nomination, 2011 Notable Books for Global Society List


Mai, a young girl living in Vietnam, loves the caged sparrows that live outside of the Buddhist temple. She loved feeding them and wished that one day she could let them free. One day, Mai helps her friend Thu feed the birds, and whispers the rhyme:

"Fly free, fly free,
in the sky so blue.
When you do a good deed,
it will come back to you."

Little does Mai know, but she had kicked off a series of good deeds that would spread far and wide around her home.

Where will her good deed lead to and how will karma come back to Mai? Read this book to find out.

Pre-reading Activity

You can help set the stage for his book, by having your students think and share what good deeds they have done for others or had done to them. Have them explore their feelings and the other person's before and after the good deed. Emphasize that doing good things and helping others makes both people happier. Then tell the class, that you will be reading about a young person, just like them who likes to make other people happy by doing good things.

Post-reading Activity

You can follow up this story by doing an activity that emphasizes the cause and effect theme. Students might write a group story, one part at a time. The teacher may start off by explaining a good deed she does for one student. That student then explains how it made him feel and what good thing they do for another student. Then that student picks up the story and the process continues until the last student ends up doing something nice for the teacher. This can all be done orally with the teacher writing it down on a big sheet of paper. Students can also get practice writing and illustrating, by creating a page with their section of the story and the teacher can bind all the students pages to create a class book.

Author and Illustrator

Roseanne Thong wrote Fly Free! after learning about Vietnamese culture through years of teaching Vietnamese student both in California and in Vietnam itself. She has taught English in places around the world too, including Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Hong Kong and the USA. Thong has written many books, including Red Is a Dragon, Round is a Moon Cake, and Ten Friendly Fire Flies. She currently lives in California. (Source: book jacket and here)

Enjin Kim Neilan is illustrator of Fly Free! and four other children's books. She grew up and studied art in Seoul, South Korea, used the illustrations for her first children's book, In the Moonlight Mist: A Korean Folktale, as her Master's thesis. She uses diverse methods to create her art, such as the painting on wood used in this book. She currently lives in Massachusetts. (Source: book jacket and here)


I really enjoyed the message of this book, that while rewards for good deeds may not be immediate or what we expect, they will eventually find their way back to us. This book could easily fit into units about character development, multicultural studies, or even just as an example of cause and effect. It is a book I recommend.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

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