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by Youme

illustrated by Youme


School Library Journal:

Gr 1–4— This story of a life disrupted by war is told in a simple, straightforward manner, from a child’s point of view. Mali loves her country: the markets, rice fields, bamboo forests, and the tradition of tying strings around the wrists of loved ones to show that their hearts are together. This element ties together the two halves of the book: the tradition is introduced in the happy setting of weddings and family gatherings, but then Mali receives strings before her family is put in jail, and they become an important symbol “that tied her to her beautiful home.” While in prison, the child raises the spirits of her fellow captives with memories of home. Politics are not addressed, and there is no good/evil dichotomy. The focus remains tightly on Mali’s experiences and feelings, keeping it accessible to young readers. An endnote introduces the real Mali, Malichansouk Kouanchao, an artist upon whose experiences the book is based, and an additional endnote by another Laotian artist provides historical context. Laotian vocabulary is incorporated in a natural way, and the illustrations include Laotian script. The watercolor illustrations, while naive in style, convey a real sense of place. Intricate borders surround every spread, and the bright/dark color schemes reflect the emotions of each scene. The book will be best appreciated by children when read with an adult to help them process the troubling elements of Mali’s life. While not a fun story, it is an important well-told one.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children’s Library at Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL –Heidi Estrin (Reviewed November 1, 2010) (School Library Journal, vol 56, issue 11, p95)


1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, Ages 0-8, Autobiography