A personal story with a timeless, universal message.


As a small child, Kao Kalia Yang watched her sister Dawb and the Yang Warriors of the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp (Thailand) as they trained in the courtyard. The group of nine children, led by 10-year-old Master Me not only had weapons training, but they also prepared for mental battles, too. The days were hot, food was scarce, and they had little water. When the shortages got to be too much, Master Me planned a mission to leave the camp and search for food. They were taking a great risk, and Master Me said he would accept all punishment. Dawb told her sister that she would be going with Master Me. Although there were injuries, the Warriors returned to camp with food. 

Parent Perspective:
Uplifting, powerful, and well told. There is a sense of lyricism to the story, even though it is not in verse and does not rhyme. It was really hard to write the summary because the concepts are so closely interwoven and I was afraid to leave anything out. Yang Warriors lays out the author's experience in the refugee camp with enough detail to give young readers a sense of what it was like, but not so graphic that they would be fearful to keep reading.

I know nothing about the Hmong culture or the history of the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, but I am inspired to learn more. The author's note at the back, as well as the illustrator's explanation about his research in preparing the illustrations, added even more to my curiosity. Sadly, young readers aren't likely to read them.

Along a similar line, there are some lingering questions that I am sure young readers will have, beginning with what happened to Master Me and Dawb. Not just in the refugee camp, but later. How many more years did the author and her family live there? Are there other children's and middle-grade books about the Hmong that readers should consider?

Recommended for readers 9 and up. Yang Warriors can be shared with younger children, but the depth and nuances of the story will likely be lost. Most will not have had life experiences that they can "connect" to. Additionally, while some text is separated and spread out on a page, on other pages everything is one paragraph. So although the vocabulary is accessible, the text density may put some readers off.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

A story of hope, courage, and perseverance for readers of all ages. Yang's story will open windows into cultures and history that is beautiful and inspiring. 

Content Awareness Factors:


Type of Book:
This is the author's personal story about life as a young child in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. It is written for children in 4th grade and older.
Educational Themes:

The communist takeover of the government of Laos is not one that is widely known - or discussed - in history classes. Yang Warriors, however, may pique your readers' interest in learning more about the Ban Vinai refugee camp and what life was like there. (Link to Wikipedia)

Kao Kalia Yang is an award-winning author who has written other books about her life and the Hmong people. Readers can learn more here: Kao Kalia Yang – Author, Public Speaker, and Teacher (link to author website).

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
10 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
8 and Up
Purchase Recommendation:
Buy. This is a story readers will come back to from time to time.

Title Yang Warriors
Author Kao Kalia Yang
Publisher University of Minnesota Press © 2021
Illustrators Billy Thao
ISBN 9781517907983
Material Hard Cover
Cost $16.95
Genres Family, Cultures & Tradition, Historical Fiction, Asia | Asian People
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