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The Most Beautiful Thing


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About the Author

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American writer, teacher and public speaker. Born in the refugee camps of Thailand to a family that escaped the genocide of the Secret War in Laos, she came to America at the age six. Yang holds degrees from Carleton College and Columbia University. Her works of creative nonfiction include The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, The Song Poet, What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Indigenous Women and Women of Color, and the upcoming title Somewhere in the Unknown World. Yang has also written multiple children's books such as A Map Into the World, The Shared Room, and The Most Beautiful Thing. Her work has won numerous awards and recognition including multiple Minnesota Book Awards, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, an ALA Notable Children's Book Award, Dayton's Literary Peace Prize, and a PEN USA Award in Nonfiction. Khoa Le has illustrated picture books published in a number of different countries, including the 2020 Sydney Taylor Honor book Miriam at the River. She is also an author, a graphic designer, and a painter. Khoa has a passion for travel, an eagerness to learn about different cultures, and a desire to discover the beauty of the world. Her inner moth makes her attracted to any source of light, but her dream is to one day see the northern lights. She lives in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, with her five cats.


A deep and moving reflection on enduring hardship and generational love.

Kalia's grandmother holds a revered place among her Hmong family. Her origins feel almost mythic in stature as Kalia recounts how no one knows Grandma's true age and how, as a young girl, she escaped a tiger in the jungle. Grandma is a survivor; the struggles of raising her orphaned siblings and immigrating across the world have only made her stronger. Despite a life of adversity, Grandma continues to smile through challenges. As Kalia grows older, she struggles with her family's poverty until Grandma offers a powerful reminder of what matters most. This picture-book memoir for older readers explores perseverance, financial hardship, and the richness of family connection. Gorgeously illustrated with lush florals and foliage, these images capture both the magic and constancy of Grandma's love. Nods to the importance of fabric in Hmong culture are represented with beautiful paj ntaub-style endpapers symbolizing family and the embroidered designs on Grandma's clothing. She is the only character pictured in these traditional fabrics, representing her honored matriarch status and the legacy she passes along: an ability to bloom even in the toughest conditions.

Poignant storytelling with stunning visuals.--starred, Kirkus Reviews

-- "Journal" (8/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)

Yang centers her cherished paternal grandmother in this poignant picture book memoir. Utilizing the past tense, Yang's narration is effectively mythologizing ('All my life with her, even with just her one tooth, Grandma never said no when we offered her something to eat'), crafting a portrait of her grandmother as a strong matriarch who was orphaned young, foraged for food for her three younger siblings, and once faced down a tiger, yet still persisted. As Kalia gets older, though, she begins to grow frustrated with the amenities her family regularly forgoes as poor Hmong refugees-- and when Kalia asks for braces, Grandma reminds her what truly matters. The level of detail in Le's textural illustrations, rendered in mixed media and digitally, recalls the intricate needlework designs of traditional Hmong textiles, and the story's depths of familial love and history ground the narrative. Front matter includes a bilingual glossary, including pronunciations.--Publishers Weekly

-- "Journal" (11/16/2020 12:00:00 AM)

A heartfelt narrative alongside beautiful mixed-media images. Yang, who was born in the refugee camps of Thailand and moved to America with her family at the age of six, draws on her personal experiences as a Hmong refugee. Yang and her family did not have money to buy treats from the ice cream truck or purchase new clothes for the first day of school. After every Hmong New Year, the grandchildren stationed themselves around Grandma to listen to her childhood stories. When Yang started to feel the burden of growing up without financial privilege, her grandmother provided a loving, illuminating perspective. This tender picture book highlights the importance of familial bonds and human resilience in the midst of material struggle. Vietnamese illustrator Le depicts lush scenes that are realistic and fantastical. The stories of Grandma's past swirl with rich colors. The depictions of poverty across generations will elicit empathy. VERDICT A sincere narrative that centers on the power of family love. Recommended for fans of Yang's previous work as well as those who enjoyed Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard and Saturday by Oge Mora.--starred, School Library Journal

-- "Journal" (11/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)

This story, based on the author's childhood, tells of a refugee Hmong family recently arrived in the U.S. Kalia reflects on how the family, which includes a mother, a father, two young girls, and their grandmother, was very poor and lived a hand-to-mouth existence. They revere their elderly member: 'The luckiest of the grandchildren got to help take care of Grandma.' A cousin washes her clothes and Kalia's sister, Dawb, helps the older woman with her bath. It is Kalia's privilege to assist with grooming Grandma's hands and feet. While attending to her duties, Kalia notes how rough and discolored Grandma's feet are, prompting her to ask questions. She learns about how Grandma grew up orphaned and shoeless in another country and about the time Grandma faced down a tiger. It's Grandma who teaches Kalia a most valuable lesson about being grateful for 'the most beautiful thing' in the world. Richly colored mixed-media illustrations feature beautiful, intricate patterns as a backdrop to this tale of a close-knit, multigenerational family.--Booklist

-- "Journal" (10/15/2020 12:00:00 AM)

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