A new book about learning a new word

Hearing children learn a new word — even if their pronounciation is not perfect — is always a milestone moment. I specifically remember my oldest daughter excitedly referring to parking spots as “sparking pots” when she was around three years old.

But, when the child learning a new word is a child who’s also learning a new language, the milestone is even more memorable.

That’s the story being told in Hanh Bui and Bao Luu’s new picture book ÁNH’S NEW WORD (Feiwel and Friends, 2024).

The book is based on Hanh’ experience living in a refugee camp with her family after they came to Pennsylvania from Vietnam in 1975. The camp provided English lessons for children and adults and offered help with job interviews, college applications, life skills and more.

Despite being initially hesitant to speak English to her teacher, Hanh eventually grew comfortable after her teacher taught her how to say “reindeer” when Hanh wanted to know the name of the cute animal on a sweater.

The story itself is warm and sweet and encouraging. Readers will root for Ánh as she starts to find her words. And the author’s note at the end, telling Hanh’s own story, is fascinating. Hanh even includes a picture of the 19-year-old teacher who taught her to say “reindeer,” and includes the story of how she and her husband later found her and were able to thank her for her early help.

This is a great story for readers who are working to master any sort of new skill, teachers who need to be reminded that small acts often have positive impacts that can’t be imagined, and quiet kids who have a lot going on under the surface.

Hanh Bui is also the author of THE YELLOW ÁO DÁI. Bao Luu is also the illustrator of SIMPLE THANKS, written by Deborah Wiles.


I’m taking a moment to share that my first nonfiction picture book, UNSTOPPABLE JOHN: HOW JOHN LEWIS GOT HIS LIBRARY CARD AND HELPED CHANGE HISTORY, is now available for pre-order.

If you order now, you’ll get a copy the very day it’s released from Viking Books — Jan. 7, 2025.

Why might you want a copy? The book tells how Civil Rights leader and Congressman John Lewis’ first protest was at age 16 when he asked for a library card even though he knew he’d be told “no” because his local public library was only open to white people.

Asking for a library card was the beginning of John’s lifelong love affair with books and a lifelong commitment to ensuring all people had access to libraries, lunch counters, movie theaters and polling places.

The art in the book is by Jerry Jordan, a Madison, Wisconsin, artist. He recently illustrated IDA B. WELLS MARCHES FOR THE VOTE, written by Dinah Johnson.

You can pre-order from online booksellers like Bookshop, Barnes and Noble and Amazon or from any indie bookstore. If you want signed copies, pre-order from Mystery to Me Books.

Thank you for your consideration.


  1. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    I love Hanh’s latest book. As a critique partner, I was able to see this story develop and Hanh has such an amazing gift. I am so glad this book is out in the world!

    Pat, congratulations on the John Lewis book. It sounds amazing!

  2. Hanh’s book sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on Unstoppable John! 😊 I can’t wait to read them both.

  3. Both excellent books – love the library!

  4. Congrats to Hanh on a beautiful and heartfelt book! And congrats to you, too, on the John Lewis book! I’ll look forward to reading it!

  5. Becky Adamski Krische

    Anh’s New Work sounds heartwarming. I adore stories that can convey such emotion with such few works. I can imagine this book will hit home with members of Hmong (significant population of Hmong in WI) community too. I’ll be suggesting this book for my local library.

  6. Both books sound wonderful — congrats to all! Can’t wait to read Anh’s New Word and Unstoppable John!

  7. I can’t wait to read both books!

  8. Angie Quantrell

    Both of these books sound amazing!

  9. Two impressive books! Congratulations, Pat, on your first nonfiction book.

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