From the Tops of the Trees
Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Picture Book Category
“Father, is all of the world a refugee camp?”
Young Kalia has never known life beyond the fences of the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. The Thai camp holds many thousands of Hmong families who fled in the aftermath of the little-known Secret War in Laos that was waged during America’s Vietnam War. For Kalia and her cousins, life isn’t always easy, but they still find ways to play, racing with chickens and riding a beloved pet dog.
Just four years old, Kalia is still figuring out her place in the world. When she asks what is beyond the fence, at first her father has no answers for her. But on the following day, he leads her to the tallest tree in the camp and, secure in her father’s arms, Kalia sees the spread of a world beyond.
Kao Kalia Yang’s sensitive prose and Rachel Wada’s evocative illustrations bring to life this tender true story of the love between a father and a daughter.
|Interest Level||Kindergarten - Grade 3|
|Reading Level||Grade 2|
|Genre||Picture Books, Social Studies|
|Category||5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Diverse Books: Immigration & Refugees, Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, Social Emotional Learning|
|Publisher||Lerner Publishing Group|
|Imprint||Carolrhoda Books ®|
|Number of Pages||32|
Author, Narrator: Kao Kalia Yang
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 work includes creative nonfiction, poetry, and children's books such as A Map into the World, The Shared Room, and From the Tops of the Trees. Her work has won numerous awards and recognition including multiple Minnesota Book Awards, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, an ALA Notable Children's Book Award, the 2023 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, Dayton's Literary Peace Prize, and a PEN USA Award in Nonfiction.
Illustrator: Rachel Wada
Rachel Wada was raised between Japan and Hong Kong and is currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She has created illustrations for magazines, newspapers, advertising, and even a mural. Her work has won multiple awards including the Freeman Award for The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden and the 2023 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for From The Tops Of The Trees. Visually, Rachel's works are characterized by the use of rich colours, textures, and fine details through both digital and traditional mediums.
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- Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Picture Book Winner
- Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
- ALA Notable Children's Books
- Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices
- Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature Silver Medalist
- Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books
- Kirkus Best Children's Books
- A Mighty Girl's Books of the Year List
- New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2021
Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)
“[A]n homage to four-year-old Kaila, who wished to see the world again and again from the tallest trees, and to her father, who first hoisted her up in the treetops.” —Children’s Literature
The Horn Book Magazine
“In sensitive and empowering words, Yang speaks about historical truths and shares her own childhood story with readers.”—The Horn Book Magazine
“A stirring, lyrical portrait of hope and intergenerational bonds.”—starred, Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
“[A] gentle celebration of vision, hope, and determination . . .”—starred, School Library Journal
“Beautiful in its simplicity and elegance, with a hopeful and inspiring message, this story will not soon be forgotten.”—starred, Booklist
“This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. A visually striking, compelling recollection.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews