‘Giant waves crashed down on our little boat. I was terrified but my mum hugged me tight and told me, ‘Everything will be okay. Don’t worry, it will be okay.’
It’s the little book that could. The Happiest Refugee by comedian Anh Do is the runaway bestseller nobody saw coming, though in hindsight it makes perfect sense. Anh’s cheerful brand of comedy and warm demeanour have made him one of Australia’s favourite people, and the story of his life makes for remarkable reading.
Now comes The Little Refugee. Anh and his wife Suzanne Do have retold Anh’s story- escaping from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat, adjusting to life in suburban Australia and keeping their close family together- in the form of a picture book, illustrated by the beloved Bruce Whatley. The best part is that Anh and Suzanne are donating 100% of their profits from The Little Refugee to charity.
Kids are loving the new version of this wonderful true story, and Anh recently had time to chat to us about converting his biography into a children’s book, and why he loves to give back to his community.
Q: Your book The Happiest Refugee sold over 100 000 copies, why did you feel the need to write this story for children?
So many wonderful people who read The Happiest Refugee emailed me to say ‘Anh, can you please write a kids’ version?’ They had passed the book to their twelve-year-old, who read it in record time, but they also had a six-year-old who they thought would really get something out of the story. So here it is — The Little Refugee!
Q: Why do you think parents are so keen for their kids to read your story?
I guess many people read my story and saw a kid going through a tough time but who made it out the other side with a smile. In The Little Refugee I focus on showing resilience and hope. It’s a crazy world and we can all find ourselves in tough situations but I would like kids to realise that there is always hope. And that happiness will await you at the other end if you allow yourself to look for it.
Q: You are a bestselling author and busy comedian, why do you do so much work in schools, especially with underprivileged kids?
When I was in primary school I was a ‘special needs’ kid who had trouble reading and writing. My mum bought a box of secondhand books from Vinnies and spent time with me to help me learn. When the independent booksellers of Australia voted The Happiest Refugee as the 2011 Australian Book of the Year, I called my mum and we had a bit of a cry. I am so grateful to her and attribute my success to having had those books as a kid. So I love travelling around the country giving away books to underprivileged kids.
Q: Can you tell me about why you and your wife Suzanne are donating all the profits you make from The Little Refugee to an orphanage in Vietnam?
There is an incredible woman in Vietnam called Sister Trish Franklin who runs a shelter for orphans and disabled kids who have very little hope. Trish provides these amazing kids with hope and happiness, and we want to help. So my wife and I are donating 100% of our profits raised from sales of The Little Refugee to these kids.