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Summary: When she was a girl Sophany learned the ancient ways of Cambodian dance. She was an exceptional dancer who performed before royalty and taught dance to the next generation. When the Khmer Rouge outlawed dance and destroyed the ancient temple art, Sophany's world crumbled, too. Her world was filled with shadows. Sophany made her way to the United States, where she worked to heal the pains and also sustain Cambodian culture. This is a picture book biography that introduces readers to Cambodian history and culture, too.
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 7 to 9; read yourself: 9 to 12
Interest Level: 7 to 10
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: The text and illustrations in The Cambodian Dancer share a beautiful symmetry. Children who do not know where Cambodia is or what the Khmer Rouge will still enjoy this beautiful story of passion, perseverance, and personal triumph.
Pros: Beautiful illustrations bring Cambodian Khmer dance from the page. The narrative's simple prose complement the imagery perfectly.
Cons: None, really. To help expand cultural awareness and address questions that may rise after reading the book, it would be nice to have additional resources links.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. Definitely consider The Cambodian Dancer for your home bookshelf if you love picture book biographies, dance, and/or celebrating other cultures.
Educational Themes: There are several layers to this story. First is Sophany's personal story: her love of dance and pursuing her passion; her love of her country, then losing everything she's known; and perseverance in a new land. The story opens doors to learning more about Cambodian cultural traditions and Cambodian history, as well.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book as part of the 2016 World Diversity Day celebration. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.