SUMMARY: Forced to flee her beloved Vietnam to escape a devastating civil war, a woman takes only her children and a single lotus seed to remember the emperor by. Years later, when her grandson steals the seed, she thinks all is lost until the beautiful lotus blooms again, reminding her of home. She gives each grandchild a seed to remember her by. This story will help readers appreciate those who must start anew without forgetting their pasts.
*Share the title of the book and ask if anyone has seen a lotus plant or blossom. Turn to the illustration facing the title page and show everyone what a lotus flower looks like. Show them what a lotus pod filled with seeds looks like and how it rattles. [Available at craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michael's, etc.]

*Share the cover of the book and ask students to predict what country is depicted in the illustration.

*Explain that this story begins in Vietnam and locate the country on a world map or globe.

*Ask the children if they know anything about Vietnam or its recent history and the Vietnam War. Do any of the children have relatives who came from Vietnam or who served in the US military there?
*Discuss the concept of immigration. Possible questions to ask: Why do people come to this country from other places? [economic, political, natural disasters, war].

*Ask if they know anyone who has recently immigrated to the United States?

*How did they get here? Where did they come from?
*Discuss what items were chosen. Did sentimental attachment or cost of item influence the selection?

*Next, ask the children to predict which items their grandparents might choose to save. Again, explore what factors would influence their choices.

*Explain what a family heirloom is. Do any of the students know of an heirloom in their family?
*Discuss why Ba took the lotus seed when she fled but left behind her valuable hair combs.

*Discuss the boy's feelings when he took the seed. Possible questions to ask: How do you think he felt when his grandmother became so upset? How might he have felt when the lotus bloomed? What do you think he will do with his lotus seed?

*Pose a hypothetical situation to the children:Suppose that a fire or flood was rapidly approaching and that each child could only take one item from his or her home.

*Pause when you reach the page showing the people boarding the boat and ask the children to predict where they think the people will go.

*Then read the next page and ask the children where the family is now.

*Did anyone predict the United States? Explain that most Vietnamese refugees came to the USA, but many also went to other nations across the world with big cities, such as France, Germany, England or Holland.
*Locate Vietnam on a world map, then locate the equator. Compare that country's distance from the equator to that of your state. Discuss what kind of weather occurs in countries near the equator.
*Ask children why they think Vietnamese wear pointed hats? (They shed rain). Discuss monsoon rains and their importance to Asian cultures.
Geography & Climates
*Using a map and ruler, calculate the distance from Vietnam to your school.
*Count the number of seeds in a lotus pod (or drawing of a lotus pod).
*Calculate the distance from your town to the equator.
*Have children draw a scene from the book.
*Have the children draw a lotus bloom.
*Make lotus flowers out of pink tissues and glue them onto blue construction paper with green leaves.
*Plant a lotus seed (or other seeds).
*Explain now important bamboo is to Asians. Name some items made from bamboo.
*Explain how important rice is in Asia. Make an egg roll with rice paper.
*Talk about the different uses of coconuts and coconut palm trees.
*Compare traditional Vietnamese dress to that of other Asian countries. Note similarities and differences.
*Transportation: compare Vietnamese cyclos to Chinese rickshaws. How are they different? How are they alike?
*Compare Tet (Lunar New Year) to American New Year
*Compare the Moon Festival (Fall Festival) to Halloween
*Show Vietnamese Zodiac. How is it different from Greek Zodiac?
*Talk about dragons -- in Asia considered good and bring rain and good luck. Compare to European dragons.
*Teach children to use chop sticks. Have a chop stick contest, using peanuts.
*Read a Vietnamese folktale
*Listen to some traditional Vietnamese music
*Examine the poem on the back cover. How do Vietnamese words look compared to English words?
*Vietnamese is a tonal language. The diacritical marks indicate a tone change, which in turn changes the meaning of the word.
*Do any words in English change meanings by changing tones? [a good example is the word "well."]
*Discuss what problems Ba faced due to not knowing the language of her new country.
*Discuss the fact that the United States is called "a nation of immigrants" or "the melting pot."

*Take a group survey of the children's ancestors' origins and how long they have lived in the United States.

*On a world map place a colored pin or sticker on the country of each student's ancestors.

Below are some suggestions for tying this story in with different subjects. Many of these came from schools that I have visited over the years.
illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi
Author Visits
Study Guides