Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.


Click here to sign up. If you have already signed up, here is the April-June linky where you can link up your reviews or updates from your reading list. We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Julian Sedgwick’s Mysterium: The Palace of Mystery to two lucky CORL participants from April-June. So link up your posts now!

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.


Here are a few more picturebooks I borrowed from the NIE Library for our current reading theme – more children’s book titles coming from Southeast Asia: Phnom Penh and Tibet.

IMG_4687Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure

Written and Illustrated by: Naomi C. Rose
Published by: Lee & Low Books, 2011.
Borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

Tashi’s grandfather (whom she calls Popola) is sick. It has been several weeks now and his once deep voice remains weak, and there are scratchy noises in his breath with his horrible cough. Tashi is very concerned about her grandfather and so she asked him about a story he once told her about how sick people in his village in Tibet were healed by flowers:

“Pollen from flowers can help heal,” he says. “So we sit downwind and let ourselves be dusted by pollen that floats on the breeze.” Popola makes a slight, wavy movement with his hand. His eyes look far away.

I love the gentleness of this story, Tashi’s genuine concern and affection towards her Popola, and how the unique aspects of the Tibetan culture (the thangka and the prayer beads and the chanting) have been subtly woven into the narrative without coming off as heavy-handed or pedantic.


“Can we try the flower cure?” I ask. 

Popola shakes his head.

“No, no, no,” he says.

“Why not?” I ask.


“Won’t work here,” he says, 

“without the magic of our land

and people.”

His face melts into a lonely gaze.

I blink back tears.

The lyrical text and the beautiful artwork come together quite beautifully in conveying sentiments of hope, compassion, and finding miracles and pockets of silences wherever one is. Whether the flower cure worked, I shall leave for you to discover. For those who wish to know more about Tibetan medicine and Naomi C. Rose’s creative process as she worked on this picturebook, click on this link.

The Caged Birds of Phnom PenhIMG_4711

Written by: Frederick Lipp Illustrated by: Ronald Himler
Published by: Holiday House, 2001
Borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

I am a huge fan of Ronald Himler’s artwork. There is an unfinished, sketchy, vulnerable quality to them that appeals to me: a sense of movement, edgy nervousness, and such subtle colours.

The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh is the heartbreaking story of eight year old Ary and her quiet dreams of a better life for her and her parents, her three brothers and two older sisters. As I read the story, it reminded me so much of Manila, the city I grew up in and the many street urchins who roam the streets selling sampaguita, cigarettes, candies, and other knick-knacks in the middle of traffic or in the sidewalks.


There is a burning authenticity in both the story and the images that pierced my heart: there is the bird lady who is unashamedly taking advantage of a young girl’s naivete and innocent dreams, the smell of salt-fish and rice, Grandfather’s elusive wisdom and words cloaked in wishes that “rarely come true in the manner we expect.”


And so Ary saves precious money (three hundred riels) so that she can buy a bird that she will set free as she blows and whispers her wishes to the wind. If the bird flies free, soaring into the skies, then her wishes will come true. However, if the bird comes back, then her wishes won’t be granted:

She knew any bird that could not fly free would never be a bearer of good fortune. The bird had grown accustomed to the prison. Food and water were plentiful in the wire cage.

There are so many layers to this book that can be uncovered in each turn of the page for readers of all ages. It speaks of the shackles that bind us, often of our own making; there is the unswerving power of dreams and wishes blown away into the wind; and the dizzying freedom the mere act of wishing gives to the individual with the steadfast faith.


If you wish to know more about Frederick Lipp and what inspired him to write this story, click on this link to read an author interview with him by

Currently Reading…


I am glad to share that I managed to finish two books last week: The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan (which I would be reviewing quite soon for our current reading theme) and Margarita Engle’s Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. 


Once again, I fell deeply in love with Margarita’s voice. I just chanced upon the novel-in-verse in our library, and now I will find a way to include it in our upcoming reading theme for July and August.


Still reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I now figured out why I find it difficult to finish the novel. It is very beautiful. I have been collecting achingly-beautiful quotes in my little notebook notwithstanding the late hour.  There is just this constant sense of impending doom and overwhelming sadness that I find myself reading other books to clear my mind and ease off the heaviness that is brought about by the book’s voice. I am hoping that I finish it soon. I am also starting to read Morris Gleitzman’s novel Once. 




Reading Challenge Update: 120, 121 (25)

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10 comments on “[Monday Reading] Caged Birds from Phnom Penh and Tibetan Flower Cures

  1. Myra, I have to say I’m always impressed at the wide variety of books you gather and feature. I need to follow you by email instead of my reader so I see more! lol And I know Felicia Chernesky. Have to let her know you featured her book 🙂


  2. Both books sound wonderful, but a little sad, Myra. I just reviewed The Birdman, based on a true story of setting birds free. What a connection! And, I gave my grandson Once, & he liked it a lot. I still haven’t read it, & know it’s supposed to be good. Thanks as always for the great reviews.


  3. Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure looks beautiful. I think I read somewhere they fund some more of Pablo Neruda’s poetry! How exciting!


  4. readerbuzz

    So many wonderful children’s books. Love to see what you are reading here. I’m focusing this summer on (mostly) the 1001 Children’s Books list.

    Here’s my It’s Monday!


  5. bluestockingthinking

    I have The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh in my collection, but haven’t touched it in a long time. You’ve reminded me of its beauty and depth, and I will now be using it this coming school year for certain! Have a wonderful week!


  6. I love those books where you collect the beautiful sentences and lines!!


  7. I have Silver People out from the library – The Lightning Dreamer, too. I’m looking forward to what you have to say about Goldfinch when you’re finished. Once looks really good!


  8. Caged Birds is one I’d like to have for my classroom, I think. I am personally always most attracted to funny, quirky, goofy children’s books, and I am on a quest to find more titles with real depth to share in my Children’s Lit class and use for discussion.


  9. The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh looks incredible I am excited to find it. Hoping it is in my public library. Thanks for sharing these fantastic titles.


  10. Thank you for your descriptions of these books. We love the way you share snippets from each story. We just ordered The Caged Birds of Phmon Pheh and Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure from the library.


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