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Children's Nonfiction Cultural Heritage

From the Tops of the Trees

by (author) Kao Kalia Yang

illustrated by Rachel Wada

Lerner Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Cultural Heritage, Parents, Emigration & Immigration
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
  • Reading age: 7 to 8


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.

About the authors

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, andthe 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 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.

Kao Kalia Yang's profile page

Rachel Wada's profile page


  • Winner, Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
  • Winner, Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
  • Winner, ALA Notable Children's Books
  • Winner, Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books
  • Winner, New York Public Library Best Books for Kids
  • Winner, A Mighty Girl's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews

"[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

"In sensitive and empowering words, Yang speaks about historical truths and shares her own childhood story with readers."—The Horn Book Magazine

"[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

"A stirring, lyrical portrait of hope and intergenerational bonds."—starred, Publishers Weekly

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

Other titles by Kao Kalia Yang

Other titles by Rachel Wada