This story qualifies, as so many tales do, as a folktale-one handed down through many generations and often told-as well a fairy tale, one with the extra spice of magic. Two boys leave the quiet of their Cambodian monastery to seek their fortunes in the wide world. One follows the sage advice of the old abbot and experiences great luck. His brother takes more time to learn lessons of wisdom, but the royal rewards are worth the wait. Well-told, the tale is a visual delight from the traditional costumes, to the embellished palaces and out to the countryside of thatched-roof huts perched on stilt legs.
- Dr. Judy Rowen
This is a retelling of a Cambodian folktale about two orphaned brothers, Kem and Sem. Raised in a Buddhist monastery, they approach the abbot for permission to leave and see the world outside. He gives them his blessings, and also foretells their future. One brother heeds the abbot's words, whereas the other soon forgets the advice he received. Although their fate is predestined, the brother's actions hasten or delay its arrival. One warning to parents: the plot contains an allusion to adultery, complete with the "boyfriend" sneaking out the back window. Paintings evoke the Cambodian countryside and culture.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4In ancient Cambodia, two orphaned brothers raised in a monastery consult their wise abbot before venturing out into the world. His astrological charts tell him that Kem is destined for wealth and Sem for kingship, so he gives each specific advice designed to make the prophecy come to pass. Kem follows the abbot's advice and attains success immediately. Sem's mistakes and backsliding make the story. Readers watch him marry foolishly, slide into poverty, travel the seas in a Chinese junk, wrestle with a sea monster, and eventually return to seek justice at an opulent Cambodian court when his newfound treasure is stolen. Sem exercises free will, learns from his mistakes and becomes a king, just as the abbot had foretold. The authors give no direct source for their story, but a note by Minfong Ho places it in the context of Cambodian folk tradition and recent history. The Tsengs' rich, expressive watercolors bring the characters to life. A book to value for its authentic setting, engaging story, and portrayal of one culture's take on the balance between choice and destiny.Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Raised in a monastery, orphaned brothers Kem and Sem ask the abbot's permisson to leave and see the world outside. The abbot offers them some sage advice, and Kem, who takes the abbot's words to heart, becomes a merchant and prospers. Sem, who neglects the words of wisdom, falls upon hard times until he remembers the abbot's advice and finds the path to his destiny. From the unhappy lot of a poor peasant whose wife deceives him, he rises to become a wealthy, happily married man and, eventually, the king of Cambodia. Lively, colorful paintings highlight the drama, humor, and beauty of the tale. While the introductory author's note describes the traditional transmission of Cambodian folklore through storytelling and narrated dance, this entertaining picture book provides its own lively interpretation of one dramatic folktale from Cambodia.