Cambodia: The Cambodian Dancer

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Hi friends, or as they say in Cambodia, ជំរាបសួរ (chomreabsuor)!

Welcome back to another book review for
Multicultural Children's Book Day! Today, I am reviewing a beautiful book about someone from a tiny country called, The Cambodian Dancer, Sophany's Gift of Hope. This book is by Daryn Reicherter, illustrated by Christy Hale and published by Tuttle Publishing.

Photo By Joy Sun Bear, Inc.

Cambodia is a country in Asia, just about a 2,600 kilometer (500 mile) trip north from my home in West Sumatra, Indonesia. It is surrounded by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, with one edge of the country on the Gulf of Thailand.  

Photo By Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Cambodia, also called Kampuchea throughout Asia, has about 15 million people. Most of the population practice the official religion of Cambodia, Theravada Buddhism. This is a type of Buddhism that is very old and strict about doing things the way the first Buddhists did.

Cambodia is home to lush forests and one of my favorite spots in all of Asia,Angkor Wat, also called the "Temple City". It is the world's largest religious monument, and Angkor Wat faces West, unlike most temples built when it was, which face East.


Photos Above Courtesy of dMz and falco [CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)] via Pixabay

Cambodia is a beautiful country, with a rich but rough history. In 1975, a group known as Khmer Rouge came to power, and what followed was some very hard times for the people and land of Cambodia.

*Parents, guardians and teachers: Cambodia's challenging history is an important part of the story in The Cambodian Dancer, so please be prepared to discuss what happened with your young readers, in case they have questions. Although the book doesn't go into detail, I felt this is important for my readers to understand before they read the book.

The story in the book (inspired by a true story) starts before then though, with a young girl named Sophany. She learned how to perform the traditional dance of Cambodia from her elders, a special dance with certain hand and arm movements. As she grew up, she discovered the joy of sharing the dance with children. Then when the Khmer Rouge took over, the dance was forbidden, and Sophany had to flee her home.  Years later, Sophany began to rediscover the joy of the dance, helping teach it to the children of other Cambodians who had to flee their home. 

The author tells a beautiful story of staying true to one's roots (remembering where your culture came from), courage and strength. The colorful and dreamy illustrations seem to dance right off the page. The backgrounds feel so right for a story about Cambodia, sharing the magical vibe and beauty of the forests, stone carvings and statues there.

What I found very interesting was the drawings of the hands in the book. At first I thought the fingers looked funny because they seemed bent too far. But then, I saw the video below and realized that no, it was very real! These dancers learn to have amazing control over their bodies! Check out the video to see more:

Hey, I got an idea friends! Why don't you try to do the hand movements to Sophany's dance just like I did as you watch the video?!? It takes a lot of practice to get real good at it, so don't be hard on yourself if you can't get it right away. Imagine if you were performing the dance in front of a large crowd like Sophany did in the book! How exciting!

 Photo by Joy Sun Bear, Inc.

All in all, this book is a great read for kids old enough to understand, and emotionally manage, the concept of war.  
You can find it on Amazon in digital or hardcover, and I must say that the hardcover edition is very fairly priced and well printed with rich colors that let you see all the details of the amazing art!

If you would like to learn more about how to greet others in the Cambodian language, Khmer, here is a great video to help you out:

Hope you enjoyed my 2nd book review as much as I did writing it! Our next and last stop on my adventure book tour is the Philippines! Don't miss it friends and comment below (with the permission of your parent, guardian or teacher) if you get a chance to read this book and share how you enjoyed it. 

Goodbye (លា lea or chomreablea) friends!

-Joy Sun Bear


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US populationconsists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural

Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

This event has also proven to be an excellent way to compile a list of diverse children’s book titles and reviews for parents, grandparents, educators and librarians to use all year long.

Current Sponsors: MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

Platinum Sponsors include:


Barefoot Books


Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like:

Author Carole P. Roman

Audrey Press

Candlewick Press

Fathers Incorporated


Capstone Young Readers


Author Gayle Swift

Wisdom Tales Press

Lee & Low Books

The Pack-n-Go Girls

Live Oak Media

Author Charlotte Riggle

Chronicle Books

Pomelo Books

Author Sponsors include:

Karen Leggett Abouraya

Veronica Appleton

Susan Bernardo

Kathleen Burkinshaw

Maria Dismondy

D.G. Driver

Geoff Griffin

Savannah Hendricks

Stephen Hodges

Carmen Bernier-Grand

Vahid Imani

Gwen Jackson

Hena Kahn

David Kelly

Mariana Llanos

Natasha Moulton-Levy

Teddy O'Malley

Stacy McAnulty

Cerece Murphy

Miranda Paul

Annette Pimentel

Greg Ransom

Sandra Richards

Elsa Takaoka

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

Sarah Stevenson


Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shoutout to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts


MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:

Author: joysunbear

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4 thoughts on “Cambodia: The Cambodian Dancer”

  1. I love your post and the detail you put on giving historical and cultural context to the book. It really sounds like a very hard theme to touch, and it seems by your review that it was done very well. Did you know that Rodin made several sketches of Cambodian dancers towards the end of this life? He was obsessed with them and their hands!

  2. I loved the story the Cambodian Dancer about the girl who had to flee. I loved it so much.

  3. Hello from 5/6j,

    Hi Joy Sun Bear my name is Shakayla. I’m in Mrs Joyce’s 5/6 grade this year and yes she teaches year 5/6 now. I just did a book review on The Cambodian Dancer Sophany’s Gift for Hope. I had made a poster on the book and it is amazing. My sister Tori had Mrs Joyce’s in 2016 and she seemed to really of liked it so I am hoping I will to. from Shakayla.

  4. I really understand the book I lant a lot of things. I think the book was amazing.

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