Review of From the Tops of the Trees, by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Rachel Wada

From the Tops of the Trees

by Kao Kalia Yang
illustrated by Rachel Wada

Carolrhoda Books, 2021. 32 pages.
Review written 2/3/2023, from a library book.
Starred Review
2023 Asian/Pacific American Literature Award Winner, Picture Books

I’m so glad I checked out award winners and found this book. Kao Kalia Yang has taken an incident from when she was a small child in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and has made a beautiful picture book from it, assisted by the wonderful paintings of Rachel Wada.

Since Kalia was small and didn’t remember anything but living in a refugee camp, she asked her father if the whole world is a refugee camp. He told her No, but wasn’t able to explain what the wide world is like.

So one day, he had her mother dress her up in her good clothes, and he climbed with her on his back to the top of a tree. From there, she could see far beyond the refugee camp. Her mother took a picture of them.

“Father, the world is so big,” I say.

My father answers, “Yes, it is.” He says softly, “One day my little girl will journey far into the world, to the places her father has never been.”

My father tells me to smile at the camera, but I can’t because I now know that the world is bigger than anything I had imagined. My little legs will have to carry me far.

I love that the Author’s Note at the back includes the photograph that inspired the story.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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