New York: Hyperion Books for Children
2004, 224 pages
Tells the story of Kia Vang, a twelve-year-old Hmong girl from Laos, whose nickname is "Little Cricket," and her family's flight through Thailand to the United States. In the 1970s during the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese soldiers came into Laos, and the village in the mountains where Kia lived was destroyed. Her father had been killed like the other men from the village who had tried to escape. With her older brother, mother, and grandparents, they make the dangerous trek to Thailand where they are placed in a refugee camp. After three years a Catholic church in Minnesota offers passage to three of the family, and Kia leaves with her grandfather and brother to begin a new life in the St. Paul area where other Hmong refugees have settled. While she stays close to home and befriends a recluse boy and his monkey who live in the apartment building, her brother Xigi rejects Hmong culture and gets into trouble because of gambling debts. The three family members come together and face the reality of their new lives. When Xigi says that he has taken a job to become a butcher, his grandfather who previously had opposed any such work except their own raising and selling of vegetables agrees to help Xigi achieve his goal. Kia and her grandfather save the money from their vegetable stand in the hope of bringing over the rest of the family from the refugee camp; when they take the money to the church, they learn that the church already has raised the funds and soon mother and grandmother, who have been studying English while waiting, will join them. Inspired by hearing this news, grandfather who has been withdrawn announces he will start to learn English and shows an interest in meeting his neighbors. (IP)
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