A land of verdant jungles and towering temple ruins, Cambodia sits on the Indochinese peninsula. Bordered by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, the nation boasts man made wonders such as Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, and natural wonders such as Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southwest Asia.
Want to learn more about Cambodia for kids? Here are three great books about Cambodia to introduce kids to this magical place.
The Last King of Angkor Wat by Graeme Base
In The Last King of Angkor Wat, author and illustrator Graeme Base tells of a dispute between the jungle’s animals. Tiger, Monkey, Water Buffalo and Gecko fight over who will make the greatest king. To settle the argument, an ancient elephant suggests they race to the top of the hill. That way, the strongest, fastest, and most cunning creature will distinguish himself from the rest.
Set against the stunning backdrop of Angkor Wat, this story comes to vibrant life through Base’s colorful, action-filled illustrations. The book’s pages invite readers to pour over the images again and again to soak up every whimsical detail.
The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany’s Gift of Hope by Daryn Reicherter and Christy Hale
Winner of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Silver Medal for Non-Fiction, The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany’s Gift of Hope tells the true story of Sophany Bay, a dancer and teacher, who flees the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields of 1970s Cambodia to come to the United States. The combination of Reicherter’s straightforward prose and Hale’s vivid illustrations will captivate young audiences.
In America, she establishes a dance school and becomes a counselor to other Cambodian refugees. Teaching traditional Cambodian dance represents her gift of hope to those forced by unspeakable circumstances to grow up far away from their beloved homeland and culture. The story is a beautiful testament to resilience in the face of extreme adversity.
A Path of Stars by Anna Sibley O’Brien
A Path of Stars, written and illustrated by Anna Sibley O’Brien, represents a touching tale of family, memory, and loss that will inspire your children to learn more about Cambodia. It also teaches important lessons about the experiences of one refugee community in the United States.
The story begins with Lok Yeay, Dara’s grandmother, telling her nostalgic stories about her life growing up in Cambodia. She tells Dara of the stars that glowed like fireflies, the plants and animals, and the brother that she had to leave behind. Lok Yeay dreams of returning to her homeland, but a phone call brings news that might prevent her from this. Dara remains determined to help her grandmother find happiness again.
Books for Older Kids
Cambodia’s recent history remains haunted by a heartbreaking genocide from 1975 to 1979 perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime under the leadership of Pol Pot. During this nearly four-year period of time, millions of Cambodians perished. Like the Holocaust, this is a period of history that must never be forgotten but can be difficult to introduce to children.
As children get old enough for these stories, two stand out: Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide by Icy Smith and Sopaul Nhem (ages 5-8) and A Song for Cambodia by Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara (ages 6-11). We’ve included the recommended ages in parentheses but believe they are most appropriate for older school-aged kids and tweens.
Books such as The Cambodian Dancer and A Path of Stars will lead children to wonder about the backstory of these refugees. Fortunately, Half Spoon of Rice and A Song for Cambodia will help older kids learn more about this history, which remains a crucial aspect of understanding Cambodian culture.
Cambodia for Kids
These books about Cambodia introduce children to the nation’s vibrant culture while addressing some of its more challenging history. Each story combines captivating imagery with poetic prose and will make teaching kids about Cambodia a compelling journey.
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