The Most Beautiful Thing

Make sure you read this book alone first so you can prepare for the emotional impact it will have on you. This book is titled so appropriately. It is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Drawing from the author's life experience, the story tracks a Hmong refugee family over time. After years of living in poverty, a young girl decides she no longer wants to go without but is given the most beautiful reminder of what true wealth is. This book is foundational for building strong bonds of friendship and community that are rooted in all the treasures money cannot buy.
-Dena

Social Justice Activities:

  1. Analyze Me Naib’s actions and motives and what they tell us about her (generous, thoughtful, caring, etc). How does her experience with poverty enhance these traits? (Identity 1)

  2. Evaluate themes as they relate to Hmong culture. How are beauty, wealth and caring for others interconnected? (Diversity 9)

  3. Grandma’s stories are priceless treasures. Ask family members to record short oral stories about their childhood that can be shared throughout the year. (Diversity 9)

  4. Create a community art tapestry that displays all the things we treasure that money cannot buy. Include families in its creation. (Diversity 10)

  5. Critique society's standards of beauty and how they relate to power and privilege. (Justice 11,14)

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 1. Students will develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.

Diversity 9. Students will respond to diversity by building empathy, respect, understanding and connection.

Diversity 10. Students will examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified.

Justice 11. Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups.

Justice 14. Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics.

Reading Strategies:

Cause and Effect & Analyzing Characters: The main character does a series of things as a result of living in poverty. Analyze the cause and effect and how poverty enhances her ability to practice those character traits.

Themes: Analyze the themes: beauty, family, wealth and storytelling.

Book Details:
  • Fiction, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Hmong, refugee, poverty
  • Author's stated heritage: Hmong refugee
  • Subject Integration: Art, geography

Video Clip of how you can use this book to analyze characters.

Listen to the Author talk about the book and her life (begin at minute 19:45)

Pronunciation Guide


Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain