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.