From the Tops of the Trees
“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||Nonfiction, 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|
- 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
- New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2021
- Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books
- Kirkus Best Children's Books
- A Mighty Girl's Books of the Year List
Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)
""Father, is all of the world a refugee camp?" In this illustrated autobiographical account, author Kao Kaila Yang recalls the time when she had never known life beyond the gates and fences at the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand. Per the Author’s Note, she was born there and lived among other Hmong families, who fled in the aftermath of the Secret War in Laos. She grew up alongside her cousins, racing roosters and savoring fallen fruit like hard candies, while also facing the harsh realities of hunger, racism, fear, and many unanswered questions. But her question about life outside the refugee camp did not stay unanswered for long. The next day, her father carried her up the tallest tree in the camp, through the leaves that provided shade like an umbrella, and Kaila saw the sky, birds, mountains, and as far as “where the sky meets the earth.” The world was bigger than she could have ever imagined and at that moment, she realized there was so much more to explore. From the Tops of the Trees (2021) is an 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. Reviewer Rating: 5" —Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)
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
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 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.
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 first children's book project, The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden, was recognized with the Freeman Award for Children's Literature. Her second children's book, From The Tops Of The Trees, is expected to be published in the fall of 2021. Visually, Rachel's works are characterized by the use of rich colours, textures, and fine details through both digital and traditional mediums.
June 20 is World Refugee Day, observed to acknowledge the right of anyone, anywhere, to seek safety. Below, discover nonfiction books that recount true stories of refugees around the world and discuss refugee rights, along with fiction picks that reflect refugee experiences. Learn more… View →