Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Title: First They Killed My Father: 
A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers     
Author: Loung Ung   
Topic: The Cambodian Genocide, The Cold War       
Grade Level: 9 - 12                  
Students: Mostly struggling or reluctant readers with just a few strong readers                    
Rating by: Craig in Vermont              

Historically Accurate?
(4) Yes and also includes historical notes, primary sources, etc.*
(3) Yes
(2) A few inaccurate or misleading portrayals
(1) Not a bit
 * It is a first person account.

An Engaging Story?
(4) Almost all students will beg to keep reading
(3) Most students will get caught up in the story
(2) Some students will read ahead by mistake
(1) Students will groan when the book is mentioned

Prompts Discussion?
(4) Students will still be talking about it in the hallway
(3) Will prompt discussion about major issues in the past as well as today
(2) Will prompt discussion about the characters and the events in the book
(1) Will not prompt discussion

(4) Everyone - even the most reluctant readers – can get on board
(3) Can be used for a whole class read
(2) Can only be used with a small high-powered reading group
(1) Recommend only to students that love reading

Age Appropriate Content?
____Too mature
_X__Just right
 ____Too simplistic

A Comment from Craig: Bellows Falls Union High School used this as an all-school read this year and it worked extremely well with all grades and reading levels. Students were drawn in by Loung Ung's story and it gave a solid history of the events leading up to the Cambodian genocide. I highly recommend this memoir to high school Social Studies and English classes as it contains a number of themes, including: war, women’s rights, communism, refugees, land mines, totalitarianism, family, social conditions, justice, genocide, politics, memoir, ethnicity, and Buddhism.

Amazon's Product Description: 
"Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official.She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung's family was forced to flee their home and hide their previous life of privilege. Eventually, they dispersed in order to survive. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her other siblings were sent to labor camps. Only after the Vietnamese destroyed the Khmer Rouge were Loung and her surviving siblings slowly reunited.

Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother and sustained by her sister's gentle kindness amid brutality, Loung forged ahead to create a courageous new life. Harrowing yet hopeful, insightful and compelling, this family's story is truly unforgettable."

Link to Reviews on Amazon
Link to the website of the author: Loung Ung (includes links to her blog and work as an activist)
Link to Bellows Falls Union High School's Collection of Teaching Resources for the Book 
Buy this book from your local bookstore via Indie Bound

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