Commissioned by the Maine Humanities Council, O’Brien (the Jamaica books) pens a tale about a Cambodian-American family, beginning with vibrant scenes of food and celebration, as young narrator Dara shares her grandmother’s reminiscences about life in her Asian homeland. “[I]n Cambodia, the air is so soft and warm that the stars glow like fireflies,” says Lok Yeay. The upbeat mood changes when Lok Yeay recalls “a day the birds stopped singing, a day the soldiers came.” Grandmother’s story does not go into graphic detail, but recounts that only she, her brother, and her baby daughter survived to walk to freedom in Thailand. A star motif permeates: the siblings use stars to guide their escape, and Dara, which means star, gently leads her grandmother out of grief when the family gets news of her brother’s death. Fuzzy-edged oil illustrations add a comfortable, familial feel that softens the story’s sadder elements. However, plenty of bright images are interspersed, and the narrative ends on a hopeful note. Many themes are woven into this book, but the value of family stands above the rest. Ages 5–8. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2011 Release date: 02/01/2012 Genre: Children's
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.