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by Minfong Ho


School Library Journal:

Gr 6-10– Learning the graceful motions and steps that are part of classical Cambodian dance, 12-year-old Nakri has always followed in her older sister’s footsteps. When the Khmer Rouge captures Phnom Penh and the Sokha family is forced to flee, she continues to cling to Teeda for companionship and strength, first in her grandparents’ village, from which her father is taken, and then in the camp where she, her sister, and her brother do forced labor. Three years later, when the Vietnamese take over, only Nakri and her brother make their way back to the village where her mother and baby brother have barely survived. With little hope of returning to the deserted capital city, the family travels through the land-mine infested jungle to the Thai border. Through her father’s past connections with an American, they find sponsors and come to the United States. This moving, first-person account rings true, both to Cambodian history and to the immigrant experience. The story is steeped in imagery from classical Cambodian dance, and the language is calm and rhythmic. Nakri and Teeda are clearly drawn, a pair of sisters both accomplished and determined. The older girl’s dream was to dance the role of Mekhala, a goddess who triumphed over an ogre and won a crystal sphere by collecting a glassful of dew, drop by drop. So, too, bit by bit, day by day, Nakri and her family do the small things that, taken together, make possible their survival and success in their new world. This hopeful story, a vivid picture of Cambodia in the 1970s, is a welcome addition to a growing body of excellent literature about that part of the world for middle-school readers.–Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC –Kathleen Isaacs (Reviewed March 1, 2003) (School Library Journal, vol 49, issue 3, p233)


10th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, Khmer Rouge, Refugee Camp, Teen