A Map into the World

By Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim. Carolrhoda Books, 2019. 32 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 5–9.

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In the pages of A Map into the World, Kao Kalia Yang has written a tender, quiet book that Quaker families will appreciate for its multifaceted lessons in mindful, hopeful living. The young narrator’s family has recently moved into a new home, where she enjoys gardening with her grandmother. Throughout the story there is an awareness of the cycles of seasons and of lives, in the yard and in the home. While new babies arrive in the family, news of the death of an elderly neighbor is gently introduced. As an act of kindness, our narrator creates a gift of art to ease the pain of the neighbor’s spouse. It is rare to see grief handled so delicately, and families will find this story a useful support.

Seo Kim created illustrations digitally using digital graphite, pastels, and watercolor. The art also incorporates rich textures scanned from handmade materials. People are drawn with caring expressions, and the color palette is varied, natural, and calming.

There are too few picture books that feature Hmong families, and the representation here could have a positive impact. The end pages feature detail from a story cloth (an embroidered panel on which Hmong women document important episodes from their history) that tells of emigration to the United States. The book models appreciation for the everyday beauty in our world and the importance of connecting with others. We see what it means to live as good neighbors, and to show appreciation for the earth and its gifts. The story is full of tenderness and hope, and reminds us of the best we have to offer one another.

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