“The Most Beautiful Thing” written by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Khoa Le is an incredibly generous, meaningful story about a Hmong refugee family. Our narrator, Kalia, and her grandmother are the two protagonists. We hear so much through Kalia, as she listens to her grandmother with so many stories and only one tooth.
The book has so much to offer. The illustrations are intricate and gorgeous. The narrator closes the book with a meaningful resolution. At points, the book leans text heavy for its format, but the story earns every word in its telling. And my favorite part of the book is something else entirely.
Kalia explains that she and the other grandchildren are lucky enough to be able to help take care of her grandmother. She describes the intimacies of this care, feeling her grandmother’s rough skin as she clips her toe nails. This detail is so important. It feels so universal to so many families and yet, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it represented like this before. Certainly not in media for children.
At the front of the book there’s a glossary with a few of the Hmong names and words in the book. The story is best suited for an older picture book demographic, probably 6-8 years old, but the vivid colors and illustrations pull younger readers in well.
This book is an easy and immediate 5/5. While the youngest readers may not fall into the story as easily, it’s worth having on you bookshelves at any age.
Grown Up Stars: 5/5
Kid Stars: 5/5