Yang Warriors

2021
Author:

Kao Kalia Yang
Illustrations by Billy Thao

WATCH: AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR IN DISCUSSION

Award-winning author Kao Kalia Yang delivers an inspiring tale of resourceful children confronting adversaries in a refugee camp

In this inspiring picture book, fierce and determined children confront the hardships of Ban Vinai refugee camp, where Kao Kalia Yang lived as a child. Accompanied by the evocative and rich cultural imagery of debut illustrator Billy Thao, the warriors’ secret mission shows what feats of compassion and courage children can perform, bringing more than foraged greens back to the younger children and to their elders. In this unforgiving place, with little to call their own, these children are the heroes, offering gifts of hope and belonging in a truly unforgettable way.

"Yang Warriors is a gentle reminder that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. A moving and powerful story of the hope and resilience of a Hmong family."—Carole Lindstrom, author of We Are Water Protectors

After lunch the Yang warriors prepare for battle. They practice drills, balance rocks on their heads, wield magical swords from fallen branches. Led by ten-year-old Master Me (whose name means “little”), the ten cousins are ready to defend the family at all costs. After a week without fresh vegetables, the warriors embark on a dangerous mission to look for food, leaving the camp’s boundaries, knowing their punishment would be severe if they were caught by the guards.

In this inspiring picture book, fierce and determined children confront the hardships of Ban Vinai refugee camp, where the author lived as a child. Yang’s older sister, seven-year-old Dawb, was one of the story’s warriors, and her brave adventure unfolds here with all the suspense and excitement that held her five-year-old sister spellbound many years later. Accompanied by the evocative and rich cultural imagery of debut illustrator Billy Thao, the warriors’ secret mission shows what feats of compassion and courage children can perform, bringing more than foraged greens back to the younger children and to their elders. In this unforgiving place, with little to call their own, these children are the heroes, offering gifts of hope and belonging in a truly unforgettable way.

Kao Kalia Yang is an award-winning author for both children and adults. Her debut children's book A Map into the World is an ALA Notable Book, a Charlotte Zolotow Book Award honoree, a winner of the Minnesota Book Award in Children’s Literature, and the Heartland Bookseller's Award in Children's Literature. She is also the author of The Shared Room and The Most Beautiful Thing. Her adult books, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, The Song Poet, and Somewhere in the Unknown World, have been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA Award in Nonfiction, the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize, and garnered three Minnesota Book Awards.



Billy Thao is a Hmong American artist who was born and raised in Minnesota. This is his first book.

Yang Warriors entranced me from start to finish. Kao Kalia Yang reminds us that children can be just as brave, steadfast, and pure of heart as any adult. This tale of hope and resilience will inspire young warriors everywhere.

Christina Soontornvat, author of All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team

These children are not warriors in violence or ferocity, or even strength or speed, but rather by way of their purposeful, determined, courageous compassion. The lessons in this book are not for children so much as from them, and I remain grateful to Master Me and his tiny band of heart warriors for this demonstration of love in action.

Liz Garton Scanlon, author of All the World

Yang Warriors is a gentle reminder that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. A moving and powerful story of the hope and resilience of a Hmong family.

Carole Lindstrom, author of We Are Water Protectors

The illustrations are by a Hmong American who researched and achieved a style that fits beautifully and enhances the text. The gentle images use vibrant colors and a mystical touch.

Martha’s Bookshelf

While the book takes place in a specific refugee camp, its circumstances help both children and adults understand the dire situations of such camps housing millions around the world today. Intended for elementary-aged children, it can teach us all.

Lake Superior Magazine

A powerful tale about finding purpose and strength in the face of extreme adversity.

Kirkus Reviews

A breathtaking book.

Star Tribune

As the author writes, they ‘risked everything for something better,’ and they show us that the bravery of children can be as inspiring as that of adults.

Booklist

Yang uses simple but evocative language to tell her story, full of sensorial details, which the illustrations reinforce.

Youth Services Book Review

Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Billy Thao has so much to love. Starting with the fact that it shows that fierce, determined, compassionate — and of course committed — children can be heroes too... The reviews describe the hope, resilience and inspiration this story holds, while offering an excellent history lesson that isn’t often covered in elementary school history classes.




Cool Mom Picks

Kao Kalia Yang has put the perfect words together to whisk readers back in time right into her memories.

Reading Through Life