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We never get to meet Hà's father because he went missing on a mission when she was a baby, but that doesn't stop her family from hoping and praying for his return even nine years later. By the end of the book, they realize he is never coming back and is most likely dead, enabling them to get some closure on their loss. Though never physically present, he comes up a lot in the story, as he is often on his family's minds.
Miss Scott is Hà's new American teacher, and though she seems to mean well, she also has no idea about how to help Hà—a refugee—settle into her classroom. She humiliates Hà in front of everyone several times, and basically does nothing to help her situation.
Mrs. Washington is Hà's neighbor and an all-around wonderful woman who takes Hà under her wing, becoming her tutor and supporter. She advocates for Hà, and is a friend of the whole family by the end of the book. In short, he's a welcome—and welcoming—presence in uncertain times.
These two kids are the first to be nice to Hà in her new Alabama classroom. Pam (or Pem, as Hà thinks of her) becomes Hà's friend, giving her a gift for Christmas and supporting her when things are rough.
Pink Boy is prejudiced against Hà and bullies her in school, devoting time and energy to making sure she knows he doesn't want her around. He finally stops once Hà is considered cool because of her big brother, but if Vu hadn't come on the scene, we're not sure Pink Boy would have ever decided to leave Hà alone.
This was Hà's best friend back in Saigon, but early on in the book her family flees the country because they can afford to. Even though Hà knows about the war, she doesn't envy TiTi for getting away, which sets us up to understand just how much Hà loves living in Saigon and, as such, how unhappy she is about leaving.
Uncle Son is Hà's father's best friend who has been looking after the family since Father has been gone. He is the one who tells Mother about the navy ships, offering for them all to go together, but his wife doesn't want an extra family around, so Hà's mother decides not to follow them to Canada, though she would've liked to.