Cover image for The caged birds of Phnom Penh
The caged birds of Phnom Penh
Lipp, Frederick.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, 2001.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 24 cm
A young Cambodian girl saves her money to buy a bird on which to make a wish for her poor family's future.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.9 0.5 47341.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A Cambodian girl makes a wish for her poor familys future.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4-8. Eight-year-old Ary lives in the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh, where she sells flowers to support her impoverished family. According to local custom, "letting a caged bird go free makes wishes come true." Dreaming of a better life, Ary buys a small bird from a street vendor and releases it, but the too-tame bird just returns to its cage. At first dejected, Ary resolves to make her wishes come true. Saving more money, she watches the vendor's cage until she finds a wild bird. She buys it and sends her wishes out as it soars to freedom. Lipp's text is nicely paced, engaging, and poetic, although it is less subtle when conveying poverty's oppression. Himler's lovely watercolor-and-pencil illustrations help quiet some of the text's stridency and will encourage children to connect with the Asian setting and with Ary's sense of injustice and fierce hope. A good read-aloud to spark discussion. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rendered in watercolor and gouache over pencil, Himler's (Fly Away Home) softly focused portraits of a winning young heroine carry readers through a few of Lipp's (That Cat Is Not for Sale) wordier passages. Though eight-year-old Ary has heard about the rural rice fields where birds fly free, she lives in the Cambodian capital where the "yellow winds grew gray. Gray winds were difficult to breathe." The only birds she knows are "prisoners" in the cage of the bird lady, who sells them to tourists. After the girl uses her savings to purchase a bird, she sets it free since, according to local custom, giving a caged bird its freedom makes wishes come true. But her bird immediately returns to the safety of the cage. On a second attempt, after considering advice from her grandfather, she purchases a sickly bird that "held a secret long forgotten by the other birds." This one soars into the sky and on to freedom. The author includes some heavy-handed imagery ("This is our cage, Ary thought, as she lay her head on the mat"), but his thought-provoking, open-ended conclusion shows the tale in a new light. Himler's appealing art conveys the girl's changeable emotions as well as the heroine's intelligence and optimism as she interacts with the world around her. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-Although she has spent all of her life in Phnom Penh, eight-year-old Ary has heard stories about the green countryside where rice grows and where birds fly free. She dreams about escaping from the polluted city where she and her family live in poverty. One morning, she takes the money that she has earned by selling flowers and goes to the marketplace, intending to buy a bird from the bird lady's cage. According to custom, if the bird flies free, her wish will come true. She chooses one, holds it tight while she makes a wish for her family, and then releases it. The girl is bitterly disappointed when it circles overhead and then returns to perch on the woman's finger. Feeling as though she has been tricked, Ary consults her grandfather, who tells her that it is important not to pick just any bird when making wishes. She saves more money and watches the bird lady carefully. One day, she sees the woman putting a new bird in the cage. Ary picks this bird and watches it fly out of sight, knowing that some day her dreams will come true. The outstanding watercolor-and-gouache illustrations capture many different kinds of light, such as the yellow light of the country, the gray light of the streets, and the dark of the family's home. Text and art work well together, providing an excellent window into another culture.-Anne Parker, Milton Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.