by Michelle Lord
Illustrated by Shino Arihara
Spring 2008 • Lee & Low Books • Nonfiction picture book
The true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, Cambodian American musician and human rights activist, who survived the Khmer Rouge work camps by learning to play a musical instrument.
Story: When Arn was a young boy in Cambodia, his days were filled with love, laughter, and the sweet sounds of music. That all changed suddenly in 1975 when Arn’s village was invaded by Khmer Rouge soldiers and his family was torn apart. Arn was taken to a children’s work camp, where he labored long hours in the rice fields under the glaring eyes of threatening soldiers. Overworked, underfed, and in constant fear for his life, Arn had to find a way to survive. When guards asked for volunteers to play music one day, Arn bravely raised his hand—taking a chance that would change the course of his life.
Story Behind the Story: Author Michelle Lord first learned about Arn Chorn-Pond while watching a documentary, and wanted to share his incredible story with young readers. Arn Chorn-Pond spent four years in a Khmer Rouge labor camp before escaping to a refugee camp in Thailand at the age of 12. Eventually he was adopted by one of the volunteers at the camp, who brought Arn to live in the United States.
Years later, Arn (pictured in photo) founded the Children of War Organization and in 1988 received the Reebok Human Rights award for his work with survivors of war. He also created the Cambodian Living Arts program to support Cambodian artists and musicians who had been left in poverty after the Pol Pot regime.
A Song for Cambodia was named an honor book in Social Studies by the Society of School Librarians International (SSLI).
“Amazing and inspiring, this biography is an excellent choice for multicultural studies.”
“A sensitive reconstruction . . . effectively captures the terror and tension of life under the Pol Pot regime. Arihara crafts somber scenes in broad brushstrokes to illustrate this important story of devastation and rebuilding in Southeast Asia.”
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