The Most Beautiful Thing

by Kao Kalia Yang (Author) Khoa Le (Illustrator)

The Most Beautiful Thing
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A warmhearted and tender true story about a young girl finding beauty where she never thought to look.

Drawn from author Kao Kalia Yang's childhood experiences as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with a great deal of love and little money. Weaving together Kalia's story with that of her beloved grandmother, the book moves from the jungles of Laos to the family's early years in the United States. When Kalia becomes unhappy about having to do without and decides she wants braces to improve her smile, it is her grandmother--a woman who has just one tooth in her mouth--who helps her see that true beauty is found with those we love most. Stunning illustrations from Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le bring this intergenerational tale to life.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

K-Gr 3—A heartfelt narrative alongside beautiful mixed-media images. Yang, who was born in the refugee camps of Thailand and moved to America with her family at the age of six, draws on her personal experiences as a Hmong refugee. Yang and her family did not have money to buy treats from the ice cream truck or purchase new clothes for the first day of school. After every Hmong New Year, the grandchildren stationed themselves around Grandma to listen to her childhood stories. When Yang started to feel the burden of growing up without financial privilege, her grandmother provided a loving, illuminating perspective. This tender picture book highlights the importance of familial bonds and human resilience in the midst of material struggle. Vietnamese illustrator Le depicts lush scenes that are realistic and fantastical. The stories of Grandma's past swirl with rich colors. The depictions of poverty across generations will elicit empathy. VERDICT A sincere narrative that centers on the power of family love. Recommended for fans of Yang's previous work as well as those who enjoyed Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard and Saturday by Oge Mora.—Hilary Tufo, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Reynoldsburg, OH

Copyright School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Kao Kalia Yang

Kao Kalia Yang is author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, winner of Minnesota Book Awards in both Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Reader's Choice, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative Nonfiction as well as the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction. Her second book, The Song Poet, won a Minnesota Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA Award in Nonfiction, and the Dayton's Literary Peace Prize. Her first children's book, A Map into the World, is an ALA Notable Book, a Charlotte Zolotow Book Award honoree, and a winner of the Minnesota Book Award in Children's Literature. The Shared Room, illustrated by Xee Reiter, was published by Minnesota in 2020.

Billy Thao is a Hmong American artist who was born and raised in Minnesota. This is his first book.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
October 20, 2020
Age Range
5 - 9 years

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!