A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
Parents and caregivers: Set limits for violence and more with Plus
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Butterfly Yellow, by Newbery Honor author Thanhha Lai' (Inside Out and Back Again, Listen, Slowly) is a moving historical novel about 18-year-old Hằng, who's searching for her little brother in America six years after the end of the Vietnam War. It's 1981 and Hằng has haunting memories of the war and her traumatic escape to America. Her vivid flashbacks include her mom's death, hiding from pirates, and the painful procedure to remove worms from her body. Pirates sexually assault a girl. Another character is injured after he's bucked off a horse. There's some light flirting, and a character sometimes gets erections around pretty girls. Strong language includes variations of "hell," "s--t," "dumbass," "damn," "shut up," and "jackass." Teens will learn Vietnamese words, fruits, and songs, as well as how to diagram sentences in English.
What's the story?
In BUTTERFLY YELLOW, Hằng's younger brother, Linh, was taken to America at age 5, in the final days of the Vietnam War, as part of Operation Babylift. Six years later, Hằng, 18, has finally made it to America after enduring an arduous journey filled with many heartbreaking moments, and she's on a mission to find her now 11-year-old brother. Along the way, she meets an aspiring cowboy named LeeRoy, who reluctantly takes her to the small Texas town where Linh has been living. Hằng is thrilled to reunite with her brother, but she wasn't prepared for Linh --who now goes by David -- to have no recollection of their family. Can Hằng find a way to reconnect with her brother and help him remember details about their life in Vietnam?
Is it any good?
Thanhha La's moving and lyrical historical novel -- her first for young adult readers -- powerfully explores family, friendship, hope, and survival. Hằng and LeeRoy might seem like an unlikely pair, but they're both outsiders in West Texas and form a sweet bond that's filled with many comical moments. Some readers might find it challenging to decipher Hằng's English, but LeeRoy is quick to understand her Vietnamese pronunciations and becomes the connecting bridge between Hằng and Linh/David. As Butterfly Yellow progresses, teens will be inspired by Hằng's fierce love, strength, and determination and see that this is a story of courage, communication, and perseverance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the heavy themes of Butterfly Yellow. How do these issues affect the characters? Is it important for teens to read Hằng's story? Why or why not? How does the book deal with violence?
What kinds of details show that Butterfly Yellow is taking place in a different time from our own? What do you like about reading historical fiction?
- Author: Thanhha Lai
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: September 3, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 4, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love Asian and Asian-American stories and historical novels
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.