always with you

Four-year-old Kim's mother utters her final words on the day their village in Vietnam is bombed. Alone and afraid, Kim is left for dead. Eventually she is rescued by American soldiers, who bring her to an orphanage.

Surrounded by the love of Ông and Bà Jones, the couple who run the orphanage, and the companionship of the many brothers and sisters who live there, Kim finds the strength and courage to survive. And with her mother's words echoing in her heart, Kim gradually learns to feel safe again.

Poignant illustration capture the perseverance of the human spirit and the power of kindness that this books celebrates. Based on a true story from the Vietnam War, Always With You will help young readers discover the hope that exists in even the most desperate situations.

Ruth Vander Zee • author
Ronald Himler • illustrator

Eerdmans Books,
Grand Rapids/Cambridge
ISBN 978-0-8028-5295-3


Click here for the teacher's curriculum guide for Always with You.

The curriculum guide is also available from


  • Children's Book CouncilNotable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People (2009)
  • Bank Street College, Best Children's Books of the Year **starred** (2009)
  • National Council for the Social Studies & Children's Book Club, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People


Hazel Rochman Booklist, 2008: Based on a true story, this poignant picture book tells of one of the hundreds of thousands of children orphaned by the Vietnam War...The quiet words are delivered through the child's perspective, while Himler's beautiful, spacious watercolors show the terrifying bombing, the sepia-and-gray-toned world Kim sees after her concussion, and then her sadness and hope during the following five years. The format suggests a traditional picture-book readership, but the subject matter is difficult...Try this with elementary-schoolers who are slightly older than the traditional picture-book listeners...

Spirituality & Practice :…this touching story reveals the tragedy of the war in Vietnam and terrible toll it has taken on the orphans from that time who number between 300,000 and 800,000.  VanderZee’s picture book shows how nurturing and loving words have a healing power and can serve as a lifeline to the survivors of the senseless brutality of war.

MultiCultural Review, Fall 2008: How does one learn history? Partly it is from the stories we read based on historical events. Like classic works in this genre, this picture book tells about survival after war and puts a face on what is called collateral damage.

In this well-told story with perfectly matched illustrations, all the Kims who came to the United States after the Vietnam War have a book to share with their children and grandchildren to help tell their stories. The rest of us have an opportunity to walk for a while in their shoes. 
Mary J. Lickteig University of Nebraska-Omaha

Family Magazine - January 2009: Ruth Vander Zee once again gently unfolds difficult ordeals, supporting readers' understanding by exposing them to the courage of the character. Accomplished Ron Himler adds definition to Kim's poignant story. His understated pencil and watercolor paintings express Kim's losses, communicating with sensitivity the profound tragedy of her earnest extremity. Together words and pictures stress the sheltering sense of the orphanage and school settings, the security conveyed by the loving couple, and the power of companionship transmitted by the orphans toward each other. Accessible and thoughtfully narrated, this story supplies a piece of what is often missing from the customary, conventional public discussions about war and its costs. 
Meribeth Shank