Story With Happy Ending: Schools Get Book

A new children’s book based on a Cambodian folktale “The Good King and the Bad King” will be distributed free to schools around the country, officials said Thursday.

The book, in Khmer and Eng­lish, was adapted by Sung Heng Meng Chheang of the Buddhist Institute and illustra­ted by Nhek Sophaleap, a student at the Royal University of Fine Arts.

It is a book with a message, but one so engagingly illustrated that chil­dren will enjoy learning, officials said.

It tells the story of a wise, kind and peaceful king much loved by his people. His country’s prosperity, however, arouses the envy of his neighbor—a wicked, cruel king who exploits his people. What happens next makes for riveting reading, enriched by lively and colorful scenes of life in Cambodia in the old days. The book’s purpose is to promote a “culture of peace,” the goal of last year’s UN Edu­ca­tion­al, Scientific and Cultural Or­gan­ization’s “International Year for a Cul­ture of Peace.”

“Peace has a very wide and deep meaning, especially to the pe­o­ple of Cambodia who experienced a prolonged war and genocide,” said Sun Saphoeun, of the Cam­bodian National Com­mis­sion for Unesco. She presided, along with Unes­co Repre­sent­ative Etienne Cle­ment and Im Sothy, secretary of state for the Ministry of Edu­cation, at a ceremony Thursday an­nouncing the distribution of 4,000 copies of “The Good King and the Bad King.” The book is the second in a series published by her commission, Unesco, and the Na­tional Fed­eration of Unesco Associ­ations in Japan.

The first, “The Heart of Asia,” was written and illustrated by Sho­mei Yoh, and is printed in Khmer, Japanese and English.

It is a dreamy depiction of Asia as it once was and could be again, if adults would only listen to children. Teruo Jinnai, Unesco’s cultural pro­gram specialist, said 8,000 cop­ies of “The Heart of Asia” were distributed to Cam­bodian schools, NGOs and temples. Sponsoring organizations had enough money to produce only half that many copies of the new book, prompting Im Sothy to issue a call for help.

“I appeal to Unesco and other in­ter­national organizations, please provide more materials for our children,” he said. Although the government is deeply grateful, some of the country’s 6,000 elementary schools will have to go without, he said.

 

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