Boy on the Lion Throne: The Childhood of the 14th Dalai Lama

Boy on the Lion Throne: The Childhood of the 14th Dalai Lama

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by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
     
 

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From humble beginnings to world leader, a new biography focuses on the childhood of the Dalai Lama, as his country remains at the center of the world stage.

On a quiet winter morning in 1937, several men on horseback rode into the tiny Tibetan village of Taktser. Disguised as peasants, the high lamas were on a secret mission--soon they would identify

Overview

From humble beginnings to world leader, a new biography focuses on the childhood of the Dalai Lama, as his country remains at the center of the world stage.

On a quiet winter morning in 1937, several men on horseback rode into the tiny Tibetan village of Taktser. Disguised as peasants, the high lamas were on a secret mission--soon they would identify 3-year-old Lhamo Thondup as the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. With a foreword by the Dalai Lama himself, this dramatic narrative follows his remarkable childhood, illuminating the story of Tibet and introducing a remarkable world figure to a new generation.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
High in the hills of Tibet, strangers on horseback rode into the village of Taktser in search of the next Dalai Lama, who would be the reincarnation of the previous god-king of Tibet. In a simple home they found Lhamo Thondup, who was not yet three years old, but who quickly impressed these strangers with his calmness and insight. After that day, Lhamo Thondup's simple life would never be the same. This biography of the childhood of the 14th Dalai Lama is both a story of the Buddhist leader's life and a history of his country, Tibet. Though once protected by its geography—Tibet is the highest country on the globe and is surrounded by a natural fortress of mountain ranges that include the Himalayas—its very remoteness and lack of contact with the larger world eventually caused its downfall when Mao Tse-tung's Communist China resolved to take it by force. Though the child Lhamo Thondup had given up his name and personal freedom to become the 14th Dalai Lama, he knew that giving his life would only serve to strengthen the Chinese government. Thus he fled Tibet the very night the holy city of Lhasa was bombed, including its monasteries and the Dalai Lama's palaces. He took refuge in India with his family (his mother and siblings), and over the course of decades has led the Tibetan government-in-exile while teaching millions of people about Tibet and Buddhism. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel brings history to life with this creatively written biography, engaging readers with vivid descriptions of the sights, sounds, and emotions of a very unusual childhood. An interesting addition to the genre of biographies of currently living legends, this book may have a narrow audience in spite of thestrength of the writing. Includes black and white photographs, index, selected bibliography and websites, table of contents, and information about TibetAid. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
VOYA - Jenny Ingram
From the age of two-and-a-half, when he was discovered to be the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, to his flight into exile when he was in his early twenties, the fourteenth Dalai Lama underwent training and education so that he could carry out his role as the spiritual and civil leader of Tibet. Llamo Thondup was born in a remote mountain village, but at the age of three, he and his family traveled to Lhasa, where he moved into the 1,000 room Potala Palace with one of his brothers to keep him company. He was called "Kundun," meaning "the presence." At the age of six, Kundun began school with the expectation that he would officially become Tibet's political leader at the age of eighteen; however, Kundun took office at fourteen, when the threat of Chinese aggression became apparent. Kundun worked to negotiate peacefully with China, even traveling to Beijing to meet Mao Tse-tung, but eventually he was forced to flee to India, where his government-in-exile is still located. The story of the Dalai Lamas's youth is interesting, but clearer descriptions of daily life in Tibet would have enhanced this book, especially for American teens unfamiliar with the hardship of life in Asian mountain cultures. The audience for this book is unclear: the text is geared toward younger teens, but older teens would be more interested in the Dalai Lama, his exile, and the story of occupied Tibet. Reviewer: Jenny Ingram
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

When Diki Tsering gave birth to her fifth child, Lhamo Thondup, in a remote mountain village in Tibet in 1935, she had no idea he would become one of the most famous religious leaders in the world. This informative and readable biography begins with his identification as the reincarnated Dalai Lama when he was two and a half, and his ascension to the Lion Throne. Life changed for this little boy when he went to live in Lhasa. World War II was in full swing, and while China was involved in that conflict, it was also intensifying its efforts to annex Tibet. Kimmel successfully weaves the everyday world of this Buddhist leader into the cultural, religious, and historical aspects of his time. The narrative is interesting and, at times, gripping, especially the description of his dramatic flight into exile in India. In addition, the author is able to convey the warm and astute personality of Kundun, as the young monk is called, as well as the remarkable loyalty the people of Tibet have for him. A foreword by the Dalai Lama and many black-and-white photographs add to the work's usefulness. Because of the text's wide spacing, the book appears to be for young readers, but the need for some historical context and the sophisticated vocabulary indicate a book more appropriate for someone slightly older. For children in the middle grades, this work illuminates a time, a place, and a life whose influence is far-reaching.-Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA

Kirkus Reviews
In 1937, Tibet had been without a Dalai Lama for four years. The search for the successor to the 13th holder of that title, the political and religious leader of the tiny, secretive nation, led to the small village of Takster and a two-year-old named Lhamo Thondup. Kimmel's narrative biography traces the early life of this important world leader from his designation as the Tibetan God-King through his education and early dealings with China to his breathtaking escape to India at 16 and the formation of his government-in-exile. The author clearly explains Tibetan history, life and customs as well as difficult terms and religious concepts. However, when the same words or confusing Tibetan names resurface, there is no glossary for forgetful readers to refer to. Similarly, there is a selected bibliography and list of online resources, but no foot- or endnotes for facts and quotations in the text. That said, this readable, accessible, at times page-turning account fills a gap in information on the life of H.H. the Dalai Lama for this age group. Final art (not seen) will include photographs with captions. (index) (Biography. 8-12)
From the Publisher

“Kimmel does a solid job of putting the reader into the shoes of the young lama, called Kundun, including personable details such as his desire to play instead of study (he loved to run and slide over the freshly polished floors of the palace) and his boyish delight in technology . . . . This is a strange and fascinating story told in an engaging style, and young readers will find lots to keep them turning the pages. Archival photographs, a selected bibliography, and a list of online resources offer further information.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Kimmel successfully weaves the everyday world of this Buddhist leader into the cultural, religious, and historical aspects of his time. The narrative is interesting and, at times, gripping, especially the description of his dramatic flight into exile in India.” —School Library Journal

“The author clearly explains Tibetan history, life and customs as well as difficult terms and religious concepts.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429996938
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
03/03/2009
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


  Three-year-old Lhamo Thondup“Sera Lama”ON A QUIET WINTER MORNING in 1937, several strangers on horseback rode into the Tibetan village of Taktser. The men made their way through the small cluster of houses and prayer shrines on the lofty hillside, searching for the one that had been described to them. They were disguised as a group of simple travelers, their true mission a tightly held secret. Through the falling snow, their attention was drawn to a farmhouse nearby. Something in the shape of the gutters around the flat roof told them this was the house they must enter. If this was in fact the place they had been seeking, the common brick-and-mud structure contained a treasure of immeasurable value. The party of men approached the home. In their hands lay the future of Tibet.Lhamo Thondup was not yet three years old when his mother welcomed the strangers into her home. The boy was immediately enchanted by the visitors, and he was especially drawn to a man dressed in a brown belted cloak and fur hat. Lhamo Thondup did not know that the servant who so captivated him was in fact the leader of the party, a high-ranking lama who had traded his scarlet monk’s robes for a servant’s costume.The boy’s mother, Diki Tsering, was a beautiful and gentle woman, with smiling lips and glossy black hair worn in long braids down her back. She was known for her generosity and never turned away strangers no matter what their circumstances. She offered the men a place to sleep for the night and took Lhamo into the kitchen to fetch them tea and bread. They were as welcome at her table as anyone, though she was already beginning to suspect that they were no ordinary travelers.While the tea and bread was being served in the main room, the man dressed as a servant went into the kitchen. There he found Lhamo Thondup. When the servant sat down, Lhamo climbed into his lap and discovered that beneath the man’s cloak he wore mala beads, the traditional Tibetan rosary. The boy was fascinated by the prayer beads and wanted the servant to give them to him. Amused, the servant agreed, with one condition. Lhamo Thondup must identify him, though the man and boy had not met before.mala beadsLhamo did not hesitate. In spite of the man’s clothing, the boy called him “Sera Lama,” meaning a monk of the Sera Monastery. Lama Kewtsang Rinpoche was deeply impressed. Not only had the boy correctly identified the man and his monastery, but Lhamo had also shown an interest in the prayer beads. Only Kewtsang Rinpoche knew that those beads had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama. To him, it made perfect sense that this little boy demanded he hand them over. Though there were other tests to be given, it seemed quite possible that the child on Kewtsang Rinpoche’s lap was the one the search party had been seeking.Two-year-old Lhamo could not have understood that the arrival of the party of strangers signaled the coming of great change. Life as the boy and his family knew it was about to change forever, and for Lhamo there would be no going back.

The borders of Tibet in 1937Text copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Meet the Author

ELIZABETH CODY KIMMEL has written numerous books for young readers. An admirer of the Dalai Lama, a portion of the proceeds from Boy on the Lion Throne will be donated to Tibet Aid. She lives in Cold Spring, NY.
ELIZABETH CODY KIMMEL has written numerous books for young readers. An admirer of the Dalai Lama, a portion of the proceeds from Boy on the Lion Throne will be donated to Tibet Aid. She lives in Cold Spring, NY.

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Boy on the Lion Throne: The Childhood of the 14th Dalai Lama 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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