Vinh and Trinh’s Adventure
reviewed by J. Holley Watts [ Center for International Stabilization and Recovery ]
by Allan Vosburgh
Co-written and illustrated by David Vosburgh
Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, 2008
Printed in English and Vietnamese
My 9-year-old granddaughter, Kristen, is an avid reader. When I took Vinh and Trinh’s Adventure along with me for a weekend visit to see her, I asked if she would read it during my stay and she agreed. I also told her that I was writing a book review, and I wanted her opinion, too, since it was a book for children.
As I handed Kristen the book, her first impression was vocal. “Oh, pretty butterfly!” she said, as she leafed through the pages, pausing briefly to look at the pictures. Having completed her cursory glance through its 34 pages, she walked over to the couch and snuggled down into the corner to begin reading. Fifteen minutes later, Kristen returned with a smile saying that she’d finished it, really (her emphasis) liked the pictures, and wanted to know if it was a true story; if so, “Was the girl named Van okay?” She liked the pictures in the book because they were “sort of pictures and sort of paintings.” This seemed like a perfect teachable moment, and I couldn’t resist. We moved to the dining room table so I could slowly leaf through the book and ask her to tell me what she thought about the story.
Kristen understood several things about the story even though I handed the book to her without an introduction. She knew that Vinh and Trinh were ordinary kids who lived in a town in another country, and that they had gone off on a holiday to visit their cousins and returned as heroes. She knew they’d met a girl named Van who’d been badly injured two years earlier by the same kind of artillery shell their own cousin was attempting to scavenge for scrap metal, and they realized that their cousin could get badly hurt (like Van), leaving it up to them to do something (again, her emphasis).
Kristen’s only question about the book concerned the lettering between the pictures and narrative in the book. “That’s Vinh and Trinh’s native language, Vietnamese,” I said. “With the book written in two languages, people who are learning or already know English or Vietnamese can read either or both.”
The book is dedicated, it says, “to the people of Vietnam, who continue to struggle with the explosive remnants of war.” In fact, it wisely deals with the ERW problem by introducing a child-victim as teacher, all within the context of the New Year’s holiday, an important, family-centered time. Protagonists Vinh and Trinh apply what lessons they’ve learned from their new friend when they realize that their cousin is in mortal danger. Their determination only increases as he attempts to brush aside their concerns, so they move quickly to get help from their family who notify the proper authorities. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team then detonates the bomb and the cousin becomes aware of the destructive power he almost unleashed on his village.
This narrative offers an educational, supportive look at the huge problem that continues to plague countries around the world. It could be an effective learning tool in the mine-risk and UXO educational fields, but it also makes a wonderful story about families, friendships, the importance of trust in a relationship, the element of danger, the power of determination, and the blessings of a happy ending. As for the pictures, they are (my emphasis) “sort of pictures, sort of paintings,” but mostly they’re beautifully illustrated. And Kristen’s assessment? Two thumbs up and a smile.
The book is not currently available for purchase. Golden West distributed copies of the book to 10 schools in Trieu Phong District, Quang Tri Province. Based on feedback, Golden West will update the book and print additional copies. For more information, contact Allan Vosburgh at +1 808 678 1352.
J. Holley Watts is Content Editor for The Journal of ERW and Mine Action. She joined The Journal staff in February 2008. Previously, she was a professional fundraiser for public TV and radio in Michigan and Virginia. In 2004, she wrote a memoir about her experience in the Red Cross Supplemental Educational Activities Overseas program during 1966–67 in Vietnam and co-wrote and narrated an award-winning documentary, A Touch of Home: the Vietnam War’s Red Cross Girls (2008). She is also a recipient of a 2008 Special Merit Award from the Council for Advancement and Support in Education as narrator for James Madison University’s “The Madison Century.”
J. Holley Watts
The Journal of ERW and Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
James Madison University