A Wondrous Book That Will Help You Discuss Death With Children

Book Review: “A Map Into the World” by Kao Kalia Yang

(A revised version of this post was published in News Break. You can see it here!)

My children are now teens, but Kao Kalia Yang’s lovely picture book, “A Map Into the World,” took me back to early childhood days. Time necessarily slows down because children cannot be hurried either in their growth or in their appreciation of the world around them. When we allow ourselves to be present in that process, life becomes rich. We consider the feel of dirt on our hands, the color of leaves, and what is happening outside windows. We notice because they notice.

In “A Map Into the World,” little Paj Ntaub moves into a new neighborhood where she makes friends with her elderly neighbors, Bob and Ruth. We see the changing of the seasons from her perspective and appreciate her small concerns, such as wanting to hold up her baby brothers to the window so people passing by can appreciate how cute they are.

When Ruth dies, Paj Ntaub has an idea to console Bob with some of her art. She draws the world that she knows, a world of teardrops that splatter like rays of sunshine, smiling worms, yellow ginkgo leaves, sparkling snow, people walking by or sitting on benches, and planes flying overhead. She tells Bob that it is a map back into the world in case he needs it.

I pulled on my mother’s sleeve until she looked at me. I whispered an idea in her ear.

From “A Map Into The World” by Kao Kalia Yang

I appreciated the depiction of Asian American characters and the power and beauty of children’s art. I especially enjoyed how this story gently introduces children to the concept of death as part of life and the importance of the grieving process. You can buy it here (affiliate link).

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