Because of her close relationship with her grandmother, young Dara is the one who can comfort her when her only surviving brother dies in Cambodia.
Dara’s grandmother, Lok Yeay, tells her tales of her happy pre-war life in Cambodia, remembering childhood activities such as climbing trees, eating mangoes and stargazing from the platform in their yard. She makes Cambodian food for the family and for special meals at their Buddhist temple. Oil paintings with oil-crayon accents show the woman s memories floating in clouds over images of Dara’s family and their home in Maine. The swirling lines and relatively dark palette of blacks and orange are suggestive of her longing. There is brief mention of the war and the survivors trek to a refugee camp in Thailand, where they made an altar for the Buddha with pictures of family members who had died just like the one Dara helps her grandmother make when her brother dies. O’Brien (After Gandhi, 2009, etc.) was commissioned by the Maine Humanities Council to create a picture book reflecting the lives of Cambodian-Americans there, but this moving depiction of the special relationship between a grandmother and a grandchild has broad appeal.
The Cambodian particulars are intriguing, but the satisfaction that a child can also help a grieving adult is what readers will take away from this sympathetic story.