The story is a gentle depiction of a loving family of another culture, and their hardships and celebrations, including Buddhist and other ceremonies. The younger daughter, Noi, is horrified by the thought of having to work in a factory, like her older sister, and hence is motivated to work hard at her painting in hopes of being able to bring home money from selling painted umbrellas.
Thus this is a gentle introduction to the concept of child labor. A message of the importance of cultivating your talents (so that you can do work that is personally fulfilling, rather than numbing work) is a great message to start conveying early, as is the implicit message of how fortunate most modern day American children are compared to children of other times and places.
So for a younger or more sensitive child, not yet ready for, say, "Counting on Grace", this is an age-appropriate introduction to child labor, as well as a lovely depiction of another culture. So I give this book 4 stars for the much-appreciated message at an age-appropriate
level. But it's a fairly leisurely and gentle depiction, probably only interesting to some kids;
in particular, with its rather quiet and docile heroine, probably not interesting to many boys.
(For older kids, in particular including boys, I might suggest the much grittier, dynamic graphic novel/memoir by Lat, "Kampung Boy", as a picture of a future comics-writer's childhood in Malaysia.)