#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes Stories Of The Dispossessed

[Monday Reading] Quilted Memories of Im/Migrants

"The Quilt" by Valeriane Leblond | "A Map Into The World" by Kao Kalia Yang and Seo Kim.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

We are on the look-out for books with the following themes:

  1. Stories of exile and movement from one place to another – either by choice or by circumstance

  2. Narratives on im/migrants, belonging and exclusion

  3. Tales of people who are in transition and displaced from their homes

  4. Stories of seeking refuge and sanctuary and finding forever homes

  5. Narratives of loss and dispossession


The Quilt [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Valeriane Leblond
Published by Lolfa (2020)
ISBN: 9781784618087 (ISBN10: 178461808X). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This is a quiet story of a simple family who once lived in the moor – with no neighbors in sight and the natural elements buffeting their home, the clothes hanging outside in the makeshift laundry line in the fields, the sheep grazing nearby.


Most people coming from a non-Western background may have this romantic, idyllic notion of the European/ British countryside – thanks to novels such as the Anne of Green Gables or Heidi. 


This picturebook highlights how life circumstances can be pretty challenging too with such an unforgiving landscape and climate – so much so that it made the family move elsewhere for a better, much more sustainable life.


The clock disappeared. The chairs too. Then the dresser. And even the kettle. When there was nothing left but the quilt and the clothes we wore, the swallows returned. Spring came, and we closed the door of our little house for the last time.

Told in the voice of the young girl, this story features strength of will and the courage to start anew someplace else with nothing but the clothes on one’s back and the quilt that signifies memories of everything that was left behind.


A Map Into The World [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Kao Kalia Yang Illustrated by Seo Kim
Published by Carolrhoda Books (2019)
ISBN: 9781541538368 (ISBN10: 1541538366). Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

An immigrant family has just moved into this quiet suburban neighborhood, and from the first few pages, the sense of security and peace and contentment had been captured in such a poignant manner.

Screenshot 2021-05-01 at 2.38.18 PM

The quilt or story cloth proudly displayed in the walls of their new home signify how this sense of comfort is rooted in displacement, grief, and loss. Yet, while a living reminder of the family’s identity, the entire narrative is about settling in and building community.

Seeing this waving smiling White couple, Bob and Ruth, warmed my heart at the largely unfamiliar welcoming sight that, truth be told, is often missing in authentic diverse narratives. Too often, the focus is on the challenges experienced, the animosities faced, or the prejudice endured – so reading this story was like a breath of fresh air for me.

Screenshot 2021-05-01 at 2.39.09 PM

I also appreciated how the young child in this narrative, with all her well-meaning gestures that she does to her newborn twin baby brothers that are unfortunately often vetoed by her practical mother, conceived of the ultimate grand gesture in the end that has brought unbidden tears to my eyes.

Screenshot 2021-05-01 at 2.39.36 PM

Instead of the usual “helpless fresh off the boat migrant” trope, Kao Kalia Yang turned the axis of the narrative by empowering this family, establishing a deep sense of self that permeated into the soil of their new, adoptive country, allowing them to reach out in friendship and initiate gestures of kindness – simply because. The earthy, muted colours of Seo Kim also added another layer to the storytelling.

I have now read two books written by Kao Kalia Yang – both made me cry. She is an author to look out for. I suspect I will read everything she writes.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 59 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

5 comments on “[Monday Reading] Quilted Memories of Im/Migrants

  1. Completely Full Bookshelf

    What a great set of books! The Quilt sounds like a beautiful story, and I love your point about how what looks like an idyllic life can actually be a very difficult one. And I’ve finally had a chance to start dipping my toe into picture books, and I absolutely loved A Map into the World! Both the story and the art were seriously beautiful. Thanks so much for the wonderful post!


  2. lindabaie

    I noted The Quilt, Myra, sounds like one that everyone needs to know about. And, I have read A Map Into The World, a beautiful story and illustrations, too. Thanks!


  3. I really like the artwork in The Quilt. I’m going to see if I can hunt this one down. Thanks for sharing, Myra!


  4. I am looking forward to The Quilt. I am learning more about quilting traditions from around the world and am fascinated by what I am learning about patterns, colours and quilting.
    (BTW, I need to clarify that Anne of Green Gables is neither European or English – it’s pure Canadian.)
    I loved A Map Into The World. I loved that it is actually based on a true story even more. I too am looking forward to reading more from Kao Kalia Yang.


  5. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Of Beautiful Things Shared by Grandmothers in 2020 Picturebooks – Gathering Books

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