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Australian Teacher Creates Book Featuring Vietnamese Countryside

An Australian who teaches English and has lived in Vietnam for the last nine years, Stivi Cooke was inspired to create the book “My Dad Is Awesome” to express his growing love for the country.

“My Dad Is Awesome” is a cartoon book showing simple drawings, telling the story of a small Vietnamese boy who adores his father for being smart and handy, while showcasing the simple but wonderful life in the countryside. It can be read in less than five minutes, but teaches a valuable lesson about the importance of family and simplicity of life.

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Cooke is a native of Queensland, Australia. He first arrived in Vietnam in 2005 to visit a friend living in Hoi An. Immediately, he fell in love with the place because of its ideal weather, amazing landscapes and breathtaking sunrise. But most of all, he fell in love with the warmth and hospitality of the people. He came back twice before finally deciding to settle for good in 2007. According to him, after living for so many years in big cities, he realized that all he really wanted was a simple life because it brought him more happiness and peace. Cooke is a loner and it is in Vietnam where he feels most comfortable being alone, where he can go about his own way without being stopped or criticized. It is also here where his creativity is enhanced, even encouraging him to discover other interests. Aside from being an English teacher, Cooke is also a contributing writer of a Vietnamese newspaper, as well as an occasional cartoonist. He is currently 58 years old.

He found inspiration for the book from his friend who mentioned a sci-fi story published online. Wanting a different kind of book, he wanted something specifically for children being an English teacher, and something with drawings since it is one of his favourite teaching styles. Moreover, people seemed to enjoy his creations, finding them funny. Putting the book in a Vietnamese setting seemed to come naturally to him because of his growing love for the country through the years. Children playing in his neighbourhood on the edge of Hoi An also became a common sight for him. He wanted to highlight Vietnamese self-sufficiency in his book, as well as for his readers to “understand the soul of the Vietnamese countryside.”

Cooke also conveyed in the book his love of the Vietnamese non la (conical leaf hat) by having the father and son characters wear it in almost every single drawing. The book is also timely as it reflects the sad reality of today that because of necessity, both parents need to work nowadays. Parents today are away most of the time busy at work, spending less and less time with their children, creating the possibility of a broken family or troubled children. Thus, the book demonstrates the importance of quality time between parents and children. Moreover, the book is also symbolic of Cooke’s family in his homeland, where he and his father also used to share special moments together as father and son.

The book took ten months to finish. In order to raise money to publish it, Cooke set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe page wherein he received US$600 worth of contributions from his relatives, friends and supporters. It is licensed to be published by the Da Nang Publishing House. It is also available in English in a 16-page children’s picture book. Cooke plans to give 100 free copies to local charities and school after he is able to recover the cost of making the book.

“My Dad Is Awesome” serves as a wonderful gift to children to teach them about the value of family, but also as a unique souvenir to tourists to show them the simple but beautiful life in the countryside of Vietnam. And we have to watch out for more books from Stivi Cooke as more ideas are cooking up in his brilliant mind, just waiting to come alive in his simple but relevant picture stories.


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