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Lit Circles - Primary: Onion Tears

About the book

Onion Tears by Diana Kidd

'The swallows are here again. They have come south looking for summer. Did they fly over my country? Did they see my Mum and Dad? Did they see my little yellow canary?'undefined

Onion Tears tells the story of a young Vietnamese girl living in Australia who is attempting to come to terms with her memories of the war in her homeland. She cries lots of onion tears. Nam-Huong is miserable living in a new country without her beloved family. Then why can't she cry? Vietnamese Nam-Huong wants to adjust to her new life in Australia, but she can't. She misses her parents and her beloved grandfather too much, and she is haunted by her experiences as a refugee. When her clasmates try to make friends, she rejects them, so they begin to tease and torment her. Soon, she doesn't talk at all. But with the help of her foster mother and her teacher, Nam-Huong slowly begin to trust and love again, and it′s only when she learns to laugh, that her tears fall like drops of dew. 


Genre: Refugee stories

Themes: cultural differences, grief, family, friendship 

About the author

Diana Kidd wrote all her life, and always dreamed that one day she would have a book published. She began writing for children when her first child was born and her dream came true when The Day Grandma Came to Stay was published in 1988.

Diana trained and worked as a primary school teacher in Melbourne. She left and worked her passage by ship to Greece, worked in England and Spain and travelled in Europe. She married her husband Simon in London and returned to Australia to bring up a family of three children.

Diana had a variety of occupations, but it was her experience teaching English to migrant children that most influenced the direction of her first three books. The idea that peoples' cultures and traditions are of great consequence and must be respected and nurtured is the underlying theme of The Day Grandma Came to Stay, and was the seed from which Onion Tears and The Fat and Juicy Place grew.

Onion Tears, shortlisted in the 1990 Children's Book of the Year awards and winner of the 1990 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Children's Literature, was inspired by stories written by Southeast Asian students at Richmond Girls High School in Melbourne, about their lives and journeys to Australia. 'Too often,' said Diana, 'people from other cultures are stereotyped and dehumanised'. She decided to write a story that would present a child from another culture whom the reader would get to know like a friend. While the culture and experiences of Nam-Huong may be very different from those of most readers of Onion Tears, her feelings of love, fear, happiness and loneliness which she shared, are common to us all.

from Harper Collins

Extension material

Questions for your circle

1. Why does the author, Diana Kidd, title this book Onion Tears? 

2. Why do you think that Danny teased Nam-Huong and said “She hasn’t got a tongue”? 

3. What does Nam-Huong mean when she says-“I wish I were a bird-then I would go with you”? 

4. Why do you think Nam-Huong thinks she hears ghosts everywhere?

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