Review: A Path of Stars by Anne Sibley O’Brien

path of stars

A Path of Stars by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Dara has a close relationship with her grandmother, Lok Yeay, who tells her stories about life in Cambodia when she and her brother were growing up.  She remembers Cambodia as a place of beauty, filled with moon and star light.  Lok Yeay also shared her darker memories of the soldiers coming and hiding in the jungle until they could make their way to Thailand.  But when the phone call came and Lok Yeay found out that her brother had died, she stopped telling stories.  In fact, she stopped getting out of bed entirely and stopped eating.  The entire family was worried.  Dara went to the garden and picked a rose and a ripe tomato.  Then she put them on a tray along with a photograph of Lok Yeay’s brother and went into the darkness of her grandmother’s room.  They shared the tomato and prayed for her brother, and Dara shared a story of the future and going back to visit Cambodia.

Commissioned by the Maine Humanities Council, this book reflects the story of a family that survived the Killing Fields in Cambodia and came to Maine afterwards.  According to her author’s note, O’Brien did extensive research not only about Cambodia’s history but also about its culture and environment.  As a reader, it is clear that she took Cambodia into her heart and showed its beauty.  O’Brien focuses on the intergenerational relationships in the family, demonstrating the importance of the grandparent in the Cambodian culture.  Additionally, the book is about war, families torn apart, and grieving. 

The art in the book is done in oil paints and oil crayon.  It has a wonderful jewel-tone and great depth and richness.  The illustrations focus on the family relationship, none of them showing the atrocities of war at all. 

This is a strong picture book that looks at the Cambodian Americans and the violent history that they fled from.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.