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The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh
By Frederick Lipp
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Review by Allison Martin

Ary, a young Cambodian girl living in Phnom Penh 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 to fuel her dreams of another life for her family. 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. But how will she chose the one her grandfather calls the 'blessed bird" who has the love of freedom in its heart?

The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh is a delightful book for adoptive parents with children from any Asian country to share with their children. Evocative watercolors and poetic words create a book that is a treasure to behold and to read together. It is also an excellent book to bring (or donate) to your child's school or preschool, bringing a little bit of Asia into the classroom.

Despite her different life on the streets of Cambodia, children and parents will find it easy to identify with Ary's dreams of life beyond the city, to a land with "birds as colorful as a thousand kites soaring against the blue sky." The beautifully portrayed scenes from Cambodia will endear this book to anyone wishing to convey the treasures and reality of East Asia - a temple dome rises out of the lush forest, an old lady huddles in the market by her caged birds, and stall owners hurry in the early dawn on the streets of Phnom Penh... The author, Frederick Lipp, provides a challenging story line with twists and turns that could easily be either too sad or too cloying. He succeeds instead with a book that is both inspirational and heartwarming, while remaining respectful of its audience and subject.

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