The Paper Boat

Written & Illustrated by: Thao Lam

For Ages: 6-9 years

Language: Wordless

Topics Covered: Family, Immigration, Military, Vietnamese Families, Relocation, Vietnamese-Canadian, Own Voices.


This beautiful wordless story follows a family fleeing Vietnam by boat with a parallel journey of an ant colony. A young girl rescues some ants that have fallen into a bowl on the table, and later after the family has left their home after hurriedly gathering valuables, ants lead them through tall grasses to the river where a boat awaits.

After a paper boat is left on the banks, the ants have a vehicle for their own journey. The reader witnesses the ants fearfully watch birds circling, and mourn when one falls overboard. When we link back up with the family, they’re preparing dinner in a new city apartment, and a single ant has wandered onto the table. Author and artist Thao Lam created this emotional story to tell of her own immigration from Vietnam to Canada as a young child. Her mother told a story of following ants to the river to find a boat when Thao was 2 and her mother was pregnant with her younger sibling. Thao created beautiful illustrations using her signature paper cut style, conveying rich textures and layers of family history particularly with the dual storylines. In the back is an author’s note with more details about Thao’s eventual resettlement in Canada. The Paper Boat is beautiful, emotional, and an essential read.

This book was kindly sent by OwlKids Books, but all opinions are my own. This book is out today!

Thao Lam

Thao Lam has been creating pictures for as long as she can remember. For her, drawing has always felt as natural as breathing. She has an insatiable love for coloured and textured papers, which she uses to create her exuberant collages.

Passionate about children’s books, Thao is especially interested in visual storytelling. She draws inspiration from the stories she hears, from the beauty in everyday things, and from the work of the many illustrators she admires. As an art buyer for an educational publishing company, she has the opportunity to work with thousands of different artists from all around the world.

Since studying illustration for three years at Sheridan College in Toronto, Thao has developed her dual careers of illustrating and art buying. Her art works have appeared in publications such as Cricket and Highlight magazines. In 2008, she won the Highlights Five Pewter Plate award for verse illustration of the year. She has twice been chosen for the American Illustration Awards.

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