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THE SHARED ROOM by Kao Kalia Yang


by Kao Kalia Yang ; illustrated by Xee Reiter

Pub Date: June 9th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5179-0794-5
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

A family grieving their child’s loss finds peace.

A family in St. Paul, Minnesota, suffered the wrenching loss of their older daughter seven months previously, when she accidentally drowned at a public swimming area. Ever since, quiet has settled over the household. The family struggles to cope: The parents find solace in the girl’s bedroom, imbibing their daughter’s lingering scent. Occasionally, the family watches videos of the girl. Then the mother asks her older son, who shares his younger brother’s bedroom, if he wants for himself his deceased sister’s room. He does but is confused about where he will sleep and store his belongings. With fresh bed linens and his sister’s clothes removed, the boy readily falls asleep in his new surroundings. The family feels comforted, an ending that is rushed and unconvincing. This story about a child’s death is understandably sobering but is also coolly distancing except for a painful scene in which the older son expresses pent-up emotions and sobs; the accompanying illustration is heart-rending. The narrative is written sparingly, with concrete details lending specificity. Apart from the aforementioned artwork, the delicate illustrations are serviceable and static. This Hmong-authored and -illustrated book places at its center a Hmong American family, giving children in an underrepresented community a valuable mirror. At the same time, both text and illustrations leave room for readers from many backgrounds to find themselves in the story.

Comforting for readers who have suffered the tragic death of a sibling or young friend.

(Picture book. 5-8)