The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh :: Book Sharing Monday

The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh is a lovely book written by Frederick Lipp and illustrated by Ronald Himler.  The story takes place outside the city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  Evocative watercolors and poetic words create a book that is a treasure to behold and to read together. 

Ary, a young Cambodian girl living with her family, dreams of a better life beyond the busy, smog filled city. She sells flowers to the tourists, giving her earnings to her family and setting a bit aside for her dream of tomorrow. Each morning, she visits the bird lady in the market as she saves her hard earned money to buy the brightly feathered bird who will carry her dreams. 


What touched us was Ary’s indomitable spirit.  Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia that borders Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.  It is mainly a farming nation that consists of flatlands, water, and a warm tropical climate ideal for successful rice farming (the main agricultural product).  Though Ary has spent all her life in Phnom Penh, she has heard stories of the green countryside where rice grows and birds fly free.  She dreams of escaping the polluted city where she and her family live in poverty.  But how will she chose the one her grandfather calls the ‘blessed bird’ who has the love of freedom in its heart?


For more information about Cambodia, check out the Culture Keys at Teaching Life Lessons through Literature website.  

Butterfly Tree :: Book Sharing Monday

We enjoyed a remarkable weekend in Santa Cruz this past weekend (I’ll post more soon).  One of the things we most looked forward to seeing were the Monarch butterflies at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.  From our research, we learned that the butterflies begin arriving here in October and stay through the winter, generally departing around March.  We envisioned trees awash in orange and black, concealing the leaves beneath.  Sadly, this was not to be.  We’ve had such a mild winter this past year that the butterflies have departed much sooner than usual.


An enchanting story, Butterfly Tree written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Leslie Wu came to mind while we were there.  In the story, a young girl named Jilly is walking on the beach with her dog when she looks up in the sky and sees a wispy mist that turns into something orange.  What could it be – a fallout from a distant volcano, smoke from a faraway fire?  She teams up with her mother to follow the orange cloud overhead into the woods.  All along, I have the feeling the mother knows but plays along and adds to her daughter’s curiosity.  At last they come upon a tree covered by thousands of Monarch butterflies.   Through words and pictures, this book demonstrates the importance of children experiencing the many mysteries of the planet.  We didn’t share quite this same experience, however, it was memorable nonetheless.  

One of the pleasures of parenting is being able to create such memories with our children.  We look forward to visiting this area again as well as to a new film documentary, The Butterfly Trees