I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book on one of the many “best of” lists that have begun popping up these past few weeks. When I read the reviewer’s description and the synopsis, I just had to read, and review, it!
Title: A Map into the World
Written By: Kao Kalia Yang
Illustrated By: Seo Kim
Publisher/Date: Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group/2019
Suitable for Ages: 5-9
Themes/Topics: Hmong, seasons, maps, moving, death, intergenerational, new siblings, immigrant, #OwnVoices
The first time we saw the swing and the slide and the garden of the green house with the big windows, my mother sat down in a chair in the backyard and said she did not want to get up. Tais Tais and I looked at the garden, and she pointed out tomatoes, green beans, and a watermelon round as my mother’s belly.
Brief Synopsis: When the narrator, Paj Ntaub, and her family move to a new house, she experiences the seasons and the phases of life, including birth and death.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about the Hmong peoples and culture http://www.learnabouthmong.net/
- Map your classroom, home, city or favorite picture book https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/map-skills-elementary-students/?ar_a=1
- When you travel, keep a “favorite places” diary by drawing a picture each evening of someplace you enjoyed seeing or something you enjoyed doing; label your picture (or ask an adult to help you label it).
Why I Like this Book:
A Map into the World follows the narrator, Paj Ntaub, as she adjusts to life in a new home and the arrival of twin baby brothers. But even as life is beginning in Paj Ntaub’s house, an elderly neighbor passes away, leaving her husband of over 60 years alone. How does this sensitive young narrator deal with these three big changes? Frankly any one of them on its own would be difficult for any person, let alone a young child, to process.
But young Paj Ntaub is observant. She notes the changes in nature, and she takes comfort in the Hmong story cloth that graces her new home and tells the story of how her family had left its homeland in southeast Asia. Bringing these threads together, she draws a map to show her neighbor how he can navigate the loss of his lifelong partner and find joy in the world once again.
I love the sensitivity exhibited by young Paj Ntaub, and I love how immigrant culture provides a way for the elderly neighbor, a non-immigrant, to process his grief.
A Map into the World is a perfect read for anyone dealing with a life-changing occurrence and for anyone interested in learning more about Hmong culture.
With soft yellows and greens, Kim’s nature-filled illustrations created with “digital graphite, pastels, watercolor, and scanned handmade textures” render a soothing setting for the story and are a gentle reminder that life is filled with seasons of beginnings and endings.
A Note about Craft:
Per an end note, A Map into the World is based upon the author’s actual neighbors, Ruth and Bob, and the author’s own family. She also is an #OwnVoices writer, familiar with Hmong culture and, presumably, problem-solving. I love how she uses aspects of this culture to problem solve and uses the metaphor of a map as a means to adapt to difficult life changes. This is her first picture book.Visit Yang’s website to see more of her books.
Visit Kim’s website to view more of her illustrations.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!
Wow, it sounds like this has a lot of layers for a picture book. How wonderful that the Hmong culture is highlighted here too.
What a tender story about the relationship between a very sensitive girl and her elderly neighbor — loved the connectivity. And, I enjoyed reading the information links because I really didn’t know much about the Hmong culture. And, I didn’t realize that the US is home to 260,000 immigrants. They really played an important role in helping the US during Vietnam War. Fascinating cultural traditions. Lovely share today.
This sounds like a touching and powerful story. I look forward to getting a chance to really examine it. Thank you for featuring it!