From the Tops of the Trees

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

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.

Format Your Price Add
Available at all major wholesalers and distributors. Save 25% off list price on hardcovers and ebooks when you buy direct! Digital purchases will be accessed on Lerner Digital Bookshelf. An account will be created for you after purchase.
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
Copyright 2021
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2021-10-05
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF007050, JNF053240, JNF019060
Dewey 362.7/7914
Dimensions 9.25 x 11
Lexile 610
Guided Reading Level R
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Original artwork, Reviewed, and Starred 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 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.

Lerner Is Coming to ALA

By Megan Ciskowski, Associate Publicist Get ready for an amazing weekend with Lerner at the 2023 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition. This year the conference will be held in Chicago, Illinois, from June 22nd to the 27th, and we hope to see all of you… View →


There is still a winter chill, but the sun is shining, and we are dreaming about summer reading! Whether you’re participating in the CSLP or iREAD program this year, we’ve got books that will inspire joyful reading. Take a peek at our book lists that support… View →

Congratulations to our ALA YMA Award Winners and Notable Recipients!

This Monday the 2023 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards were held in New Orleans at the LibLearnX program. Today it’s our pleasure to share the following awards and recognition for Lerner titles. From the Tops of the Trees named the… View →

World Refugee Day: Books that Highlight Refugee Rights & Experiences

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 →


  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Picture Book Winner, Winner, 2023
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2022
  • Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature Silver Medalist, Runner-up, 2022
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2022
  • ALA Notable Children's Books, Winner, 2022
  • Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Books of the Year, Winner, 2021
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, Winner, 2021
  • Kirkus Best Children's Books, Winner, 2021
  • A Mighty Girl's Books of the Year List, Winner, 2021
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2021, Winner, 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

Publishers Weekly

“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

Kirkus Reviews

“This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. A visually striking, compelling recollection.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews