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Get to Know Children's Book Author and Illustrator Thao Lam

October 4, 2022

Picture book aficionados: do you know Thao Lam? If you don't, let's rectify that post haste!

Born in Vietnam and raised in Canada, Thao Lam is the creator of several funny, touching, and thought-provoking picture books. She most often works in a collage style, combining all sorts of textured, patterned, and colored papers and even photographs to tell stories true to her life and what she sees around her. In honor of the publication of her newest book just this past month, we are highlighting some of her marvelous books available in our collection.  

Children's Book Author and Illustrator Thao Lam
Children's Book Author and Illustrator Thao Lam

The Paper Boat is a wordless retelling of two intertwined stories. This affecting and even suspenseful picture book is an account of Lam's family's departure from Vietnam (when she was only two years old) and a family legend in which a column of marching ants led her mother to safety the night of their escape.

As a little girl and her mother board a boat in the dark of night, a colony of ants finds a paper boat left behind by the little girl. They embark on a perilous journey, parallel to that of many Vietnamese refugees in the years following the Vietnam War. Eventually, both the ants and Lam's family find safety in a brand new place. 

Drawing upon her experiences as a child in Toronto schools, Thao is an account of growing up with a name others seem to find incapable of pronouncing correctly, something with which I am very familiar. Lam incorporates childhood photographs of herself in the book's collages, placing the reader squarely in the classroom and in her experiences. This is a wonderful book to read along other picture books that explore the importance of pronouncing children's names correctly in the classroom, even if they are not the kinds of names to which we are accustomed.

In a departure from the style of her previous books, Lam uses digital illustration in her latest book, The Line in the Sand, to tell an ingenious story about conflict resolution and miscommunication. A group of colorful monster friends are spending a fun day at the beach when one of them uses a piece of driftwood to draw a line in the sand, separating some monsters from the others. Does the line mean something? Can they cross it? What happens if they do? This delightful wordless picture book explores the sometimes undue significance we give to borders and lines between us, and what can result from that if we fail to look past them.

Klem-Mari Cajigas


In a former life, Klem-Marí was a Religious Studies scholar. She much prefers being the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life! She wants you to read and share books with the children in your life, and for those children to see you to read as well. Originally from Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí also enjoys her cat, baking, yoga, and the works of Octavia Butler.