The Most Beautiful Village in the World is a picture book written and illustrated by Yutaka Kobayahi. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I wanted to share it with my girls. They always enjoy the books I receive, and their feedback is useful in helping me write my reviews.
This is a slow-paced picture book about an Afghani boy named Yamo who lives in the village of Paghman with his parents. His older brother is off fighting in the war, and because of this, Yamo will get to travel to town to sell the fruit they have picked. Yamo has never been to town before, and is somewhat intimidated when his father asks him to walk around with the fruit. Later, he and his father share tea at a restaurant, and they have enough money to buy a lamb. No one else in the village has a lamb of their own, and Yamo is very proud to be able to return home with their new lamb.
The story ends with, “In the winter, the village was destroyed in the war. It no longer exists.”
I try to be very careful about revealing spoilers in my book reviews, but in the case, I feel that it’s very important for adults to know about the very surprising ending before sharing this book with children. It’s quite sobering to spend so much time getting to know Yamo (and like), only to find out that his village was completely destroyed. My girls were surprised by the ending, and said that it was very sad. This book definitely achieved its goal of bringing awareness to the plight of the Afghan people, whose country has been under siege for the last forty years.
The story itself is beautiful in its simplicity. It reminded me of the classic picture book Ox-Cart Man. Both books involve a farmer leaving his farm with wares to sell in town, and the most interesting parallel is that Ox-Cart Man takes place in the 19th century and The Most Beautiful Village in the World is a relatively modern story.
The illustrations are subdued but realistic. They capture the beauty of rural Afghanistan before it was marred by war. Yamo’s life is simple, but it is full, and it’s clear that the villagers all care for one another. The reader feels Yamo’s sense of wonder at traveling along the dusty road and seeing the town for the first time.
I would absolutely recommend The Most Beautiful Village in the World. This book is probably best suited for older children for the reasons that I have discussed above, although parents are the best judges of their children’s needs. This is such a lovely story, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to share it with my children.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.