cover image The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee's Story

The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee's Story

Pegi Deitz Shea. Boyds Mills Press, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-134-1

During a visit to a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand, Shea (Bungalow Fungalow) saw women embroidering pa'ndau, narrative tapestries, and noticed a girl who became the model for the heroine of this picture book. Mai, who helps her grandmother create borders on pa'ndau, wants to make her own story cloth. Asking Grandmother for a tale to stitch, she is told, ""If you do not have a story of your own, you are not ready to do a pa'ndau."" One painful night, Mai decides to stitch the story of her life, which is rendered here in words as well as on a pa'ndau stitched by You Yang, who spent 17 years in Thai refugee camps. Opening with a hard-hitting recollection of her parents' deaths at the hands of soldiers (""Little Mai slept between her mother and father, who were very beautiful even though blood dripped from their heads""), Mai's pa'ndau ends on a wishful note, describing an airplane trip ""to a village where homes were as big as mahogany trees."" Closeup photos of Yang's textured needlework, as well as Riggio's (A Moon in My Teacup) accomplished watercolor and gouache paintings, add to the poignancy of the tale. Bound to elicit many questions. Ages 3-8. (Jan.)