A wonderful addition to the "First Person Fiction" series, this novel traces the experiences of twelve-year-old Nakri and her family as they live through the Communist take-over of Cambodia. Fearing the threat of American bombing attacks in the city, Nakri and her family flee, taking with them only what they are able to carry. They camp their way to the grandparents' home and settle in, waiting to see what will become of their city home. To pass the time, Nakri and her older sister, Teeda, practice the dance that their mother taught them to do and love. When Nakri's father, an educated man, is carted off never to return, the rest of the family is marched to a work camp. The hard labor is unbearable for Teeda, who soon dies of exhaustion and hunger. Before her death, however, she dances the dance in front of the moon, inspiring her observers to remember life before the arrival of Communism. In deference to her sister and to mourn her loss, Nakri refuses to dance. When the Vietnamese army invades Cambodia, the captors flee, and Nakri and her brother return to the grandmother's home, enjoying a bittersweet reunion with the family members who have survived. Lack of food forces the family to set out again, this time headed to the Thailand border where supply stations are stocked with rice and other essentials. A twist of fate allows Nakri and her family to journey to America and establish a new home. There, Nakri and her family must learn to accept new ways of life while staying true to their native values. With time, Nakri dances again, honoring her sister and the homeland she has left. A powerful historical novel that humanizes an event from which many students feel far removed. Highlyrecommended. 2003, Orchard Books,
Forced to leave their comfortable home in Phnom Penh, members of a Cambodian family walk for days to reach their grandmother's village. Once there, the father is taken away by soldiers, and then Nakri, her older sister, Teeda, and their older brother, Boran are ordered to a new camp with other teens. There Teeda dies of malaria before Nakri, Boran, and the others are freed to return to their villages when the communists hurriedly leave the country. Reunited with their mother and young brother as well as with other family members, they travel on foot again, this time to the Thai border where refugees are given food and medical care. There they come to the attention of social workers who realize that an American friend of their father's might sponsor the family as emigrants to the United States. Once in America, the family must adjust to a foreign culture and a land where food is plentiful. Fitting in is especially difficult for Nakri because she has never made peace with her sister's death and because of her continued longing to become a classical dancer. Finally, through connecting with the music of her homeland, she is able to overcome her anguish and learn to live her life. Covering several years in Nakri's life, this quick read grabs the reader's attention and reveals the confusion and longing that are surely felt by all emigrants who are forced to leave their countries. This first-person narrative should be instructive for American students. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Orchard, 208p., Ages 11 to 15.
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 Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In this historical first-person narrative, Nakri Sokha, a 12-year-old girl living in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in 1975, has her world shattered overnight. A day that starts with Nakri’s classical dance class ends with heavy bombing. By the next morning, the Sokha family wakes to find their city taken over by communist Khmer Rouge. Nakri and her older sister, Teeda, are sent to one refugee camp, her older brother to another. Her father, a teacher, is taken away by the Khmer Rouge and killed for being too educated while Nakri’s mother is forced to stay behind with her younger brother. Readers follow Nakri and her sister to the work camp and watch painfully as they struggle to overcome the starvation and physical abuse. Nakri manages to keep herself alive, but Teeda dies from malaria. When the Khmer Rouge is dismantled four years later, Nakri reunites with her family and they flee to America. When the family settles in Philadelphia, Nakri, through her love of classical dance, is finally able to process her tremendous grief as she adjusts to the strange excesses of American life. Ho’s (Maples in the Mist, 1996, etc.) narrative, arranged in four compact parts, manages to cover a lot of ground, but never strays from the intimacy of Nakri’s strong, but vulnerable, voice. Teeda also shines as Nakri’s idealistic and talented older sister, though the other family members lack emotional depth. The author takes on this shocking slice of world history with the appropriate amount of detail and sensitivity for a young audience, but the difficult subject matter makes it better suited for more mature readers. (Fiction. 11-15)