Gibberish | Young Vo


Gibberish by Young Vo

Out now from Levine Querido; 40 pages 

About the author: “​Young Vo learned to draw before he could write. He drew a lot of characters, then began to write stories for them. There were not many job choices that he could make, so he decided to be an animator, illustrator, and author. Now he writes and draws his stories before the sun rises, then during the day, he animates” (Bio taken from author’s website).

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“Gibberish was in the books and in the air.”

It was a long trip for Dat to his new home and an even longer journey for him to feel comfortable in it. Dat and his mother, Mah, are immigrants. They have sailed across oceans, flown high in the sky, and have finally made it to the new place they will call home. There’s only one problem: Dat doesn’t yet speak the language. Everything and everyone around him is gibberish. But slowly, Dat will find a friend who helps turn a harsh world into a home.

This story is one of the special ones. It is beautiful and heartbreaking, and so, so relatable. I moved around a lot as a child, and every new school was a terrifying leap into the unknown. But I was lucky enough to already speak the language. Dat and so many others do not have that—making them targets for mean-spirited people who don’t want to understand what it’s like to be different. Young Vo illustrates this through his monstrous-looking side characters who mispronounce Dat’s name and make fun of his speech—but he also takes a different approach to gibberish as we know it. In Dat’s world, everyone and everything around him is in black and white. It’s strange and unnerving, and Dat, the only non-monstrous child within the first few pages, is in color. Dat has presumably moved to an English-speaking country, one that sees any other language as foreign and weird. However, in this story, Dat is the normal one, with the English speakers using a confusing language. 

I loved this subversion of expectations, and I think readers will too. It’s a beautiful lesson that underscores the relativity of what’s considered “different.” Young Vo has truly created an incredible story—one that will encourage me every day to treat people with kindness and love.

PRR Assistant Director, Sophie Applin


1 thought on “Gibberish | Young Vo”

  1. Ali says:

    This review makes me want to purchase this book for my friend’s classroom. What an engaging way to teach children about our differences.

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