A Map Into the World by Kao Kalia Yang and Seo Kim

Hello, Kao Kalia Yang! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate and discuss your beautiful debut picture book, A Map Into the World. What ran through your head (or your heart) the first time you saw Seo Kim’s illustrations for A Map Into the World

Kao Kalia Yang: The first time I saw Seo Kim’s illustrations for A Map into the World, I thought of all the picture books I read when I was a child and the all the picture books I’ve read since I’ve become a mother, and I couldn’t quite believe that I was holding to the images of a story centered on a Hmong girl, a Hmong family, a world that included someone like me. It was surreal. The Hmong have been in America for nearly fifty years, and finally I was looking upon the images of a picture book that included our place in the world. I was tremendously moved. 

Cover design by Emily Harris

What planted the seed for A Map into the World?

Kao Kalia Yang: When I was a little girl, we lived in a government housing project. The bookmobile visited us once a week. My sister and I used to climb—what felt like a very high hill—to get to the bookmobile. Once there, we’d check out books and come home and create stories from them (we couldn’t read the books at first because we were new refugee children in America encountering what was written for the first time). One day, I asked the librarian for a book about people like me. She looked and in the end she found books about the Chinese and the Japanese, one book about the Vietnamese. She handed me these books and she said, “I’m so sorry, we have no books about the Hmong on these shelves.” The librarian remembers and I remember whispering under my breath, “One day, a little girl is going to come in here and find a book about the people who love her most.” The seeds of this book were planted 32 years ago.

Please finish these sentence starters: 

I hope A Map Into the World will always now live on the bookshelves of a bigger world for a child to find, to be reminded that they too matter in this big world, and that inside of them is a map for the ages.

A Map Into the World’s endpapers serve as a critical turning point in the map of the Hmong journey into literary America and as a necessary reminder that the work we do in literature is not enough until it fully represents the vast beauty and bounty of all Americans’ stories.

Picture books are beautiful gifts full of unknown and unexpected treasures for the many seasons of our lives, to give us pause, make us wonder, help us forget or remember how it was in a different place and time or this very place in time—how it is to be in the heart and the mind of someone else.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what my favorite season of the year is and my favorite season of life has been so far. 

Cover design by Emily Harris

Look for A Map into the World on October 1, 2019.

A watermelon growing big and round.
A yellow leaf fallen from a tree.
A handful of glittering snow.
The first worm of spring.

As the seasons change, so too does a young girl's world. She moves into a new home with her family and encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the world. But who are her treasures for?

Kao Kalia Yang's picture book debut tells the heartfelt story of a young Hmong girl seeking beauty and connection in a busy world, lushly illustrated by Seo Kim.


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