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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Hanh Bui + Giveaway

Hanh Bui, inspired by her first teacher at a refugee camp, pursued a master’s degree in early childhood education and taught second grade before becoming a full-time mother to three children. She also served as a development officer for Senhoa Foundation in support of women and children who survived human trafficking in Cambodia and has served on boards supporting children and parents in building community.

Author photo of Hanh Bui

Hanh’s commitment to celebrating her heritage includes giving presentations in school visits about her refugee experience to children studying immigration as part of their school curriculum. She serves as co-chair of Equity and Inclusion Team for Mid-Atlantic region of SCBWI and has been featured in Highlights Children’s Magazine and Next Avenue.

For more information on Hanh Bui see our earlier interview (here).

Book cover - girl peeking into a closet and looking at a yellow Ao Dai.

Hanh is the author of, The Yellow Áo Dài (2023).

Her newest picture book, Ánh's New Word: A Story About Learning a New Language, was released May 14th.

Welcome back Hanh, it's so nice to chat with you again!   


What was your inspiration spark of interest for Ánh's New Word: A Story About Learning a New Language?

Book cover - girl and grandmother in front of refugee barracks in Penn. U.S. celebrating her first English word.

I was inspired to write this story based on my experiences at a refugee camp  learning English with the help from my first teacher. Miss Marilou volunteered at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania and became my first teacher. After an arduous journey and loss of home, I was reluctant to learn a new language. I hadn’t been in school for weeks and I was worried I would make mistakes. Even though Miss Marilou and I didn’t speak the same language, I felt her kindness. I am grateful to be able to share my gratitude for her and all teachers for the impactful work they do and to represent the experiences of refugee children navigating life in a new country.


It's so much more touching and poignant as it comes from your own childhood experience. How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Ánh's New Word ?

It took almost two years from the first draft to publication.


What was the toughest or most challenging aspect of writing Ánh's New Word? How, if at all, did this differ from The Yellow Áo Dài?

The most challenging part of writing Ánh's New Word was how do I share with readers what it was like for me to learn a new language—one that did not come naturally because the sounds in English are very different compared to the Vietnamese language I learned as a child. I especially wanted children to connect with the struggles Ánh faced as a newcomer, to recognize the courage it took to learn something new, and to believe in the kindness of helpers.

The Yellow Áo Dài is an intergenerational story celebrating family love and my Vietnamese heritage. Ánh's New Word represents my experiences as a Vietnamese child finding the courage to speak a new language and allows even the youngest readers to learn what life was like at a refugee camp.


And you did so with such gentle honesty. We often focus on what was hard about writing a book. What was the most fun or fascinating part of writing Ánh's New Word?

It was good to remember my childhood at Fort Indiantown Gap after the initial worries about the uncertainties my family and I faced as refugees. Once I knew that we were safe and supported by the local community of volunteers, I settled into my new life at the camp and embraced being a student again. It was surreal to be able to revisit my childhood experiences and write them in a children’s book.

I can imagine. But I am glad that you had a safe and supportive experience and wonderful teachers. Did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see Bao Luu’s illustrations? What is your favorite spread?

Internal spread - on left, girl and grandmother walking between refugee barracks. On right, close-up of girl sharing worries with her grandmother.

Text © Hanh Bui, 2024. Image © Bao Luu, 2024.

I was really moved when I first saw Bao Luu’s illustrations for Ánh's New Word. It felt surreal to see my lived experiences between the pages of a book. Bao Luu did an amazing job portraying the emotions and inner thoughts I felt as a child learning a new language. The color palette he chose perfectly captures the time period and setting of Fort Indiantown Gap in 1975.

My favorite spread is on pages 16-17 when Ánh and their grandmother are walking back to the barracks together. This spread made me think of my grandmother whose wisdom and courage gifted me a safe space to learn and grow.


I love this spread as well. It captures their love for each other so beautifully. What's something you want your readers to know or learn about Ánh's New Word?\

I hope readers know that they are not alone in their experiences and to be sensitive to others who may struggle to learn something new. I want to empower children to believe that they, too, can be brave and do hard things no matter what it is. It takes courage to keep on trying and kindness can help us soar in the most difficult circumstances.


The gift of kindness and compassion is something we should give to everyone. Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I am revising an intergenerational story that celebrates the power of storytelling to honor where one comes from and how the universal themes in our stories can serve as a bridge between cultures.


That sounds intriguing! We'll have to keep our eyes open for this book. Good luck with it and your other endeavors. Last question, is there a plant or flower you love growing, or wish you could grow, in your yard or garden?

I would love to have a garden of beautiful lavender Wisteria blossoms. However, I believe Wisteria flowering trees thrive better in warmer climates and may not survive during the harsh winter months.


Thank you, Hanh, for stopping by to share with us your newest picture book.

Thank you, Maria, for your thoughtful questions and kind support of my books. It is always a pleasure sharing with you.

Book cover - girl and grandmother in front of refugee barracks in Penn. U.S. celebrating her first English word.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Ánh's New Word: A Story About Learning a New Language.

To find out more about Hanh Bui, or to contact her:

🎈🎉 Ánh's New Word Giveaway 🎉🎈

Awesome news! Hanh is offering one lucky reader a copy of Ánh's New Word: A Story About Learning a New Language..

- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing on June 3rd.

- Be sure to say where (if) you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- Sorry US Residents only.

1 comentariu

Danielle Hammelef
Danielle Hammelef
28 mai

I'm blessed to live in a diverse community with many Asian immigrants. Some I meet through my exercise classes and I have learned a bit about how they feel coming here and leaving behind loved ones. This book is needed for all readers to help them understand the struggles immigrants face and I can't wait to read this beautiful, emotional book. I shared on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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