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From the Tops of the Trees - Review


*I received this e-arc from Carolrhoda Books via NetGalley. All views are my own*


I've always been a fan of survival of the fittest tropes. In Fiction, my mind can wander and imagine all the possibilities, and Non-Fiction brings a surreal reality that tugs at my emotions for the world. Still, learning about the stress of war and internment camps from a personal point of view is an experience that no history book can teach. Luckily this book is more than that. From the Top of the Trees by Kao Kalia Yang details her personal life growing up in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp enveloped by a close bond between father and daughter.


"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."

From the Top of the Trees, isn't really about the struggles of war, but a child's perspective of being born and raised in a refugee camp. Based on a true story, Yang didn't know the world's dangers outside of their … "imprisonment." She didn't know anything outside of the barricades. So when she looked up and questioned her dad about what's beyond the top of the trees, we see a bond take shape and grow before our eyes. I love that you can feel the relationship between father and daughter. Whatever lessons and conversations Yang had with her dad resonated throughout her life to create this book. And having the actual photograph of the two in the trees gave it the most personal intimate touch that brought the story together.

It is a children's book, but I think this was made for her family. It's a momento that says she remembers, and that she was able to see what was beyond the trees. As a child reading this, they can get a beautifully painted perspective of a four-year-old's life, but it's the dedication page that will bring tears to an adult's eyes.

Overall I gave this book a 4-star rating. It's not so much learning about the war, but seeing a bond bloom. Which I guess is perfect for the age group the book is intended for. I like the translations in the back, I didn't have to do too much researching, and I'm mainly happy for Yang to fulfill her promise to her dad.


From the Tops of the Trees debuts October 5, 2021.


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