cover image Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin

Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin

Michelle Lord, , illus. by Felicia Hoshino. . Lee & Low, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58430-248-3

Lord's debut was inspired by a young dancer from a Cambodian troupe, seen and drawn by Auguste Rodin in Paris in 1906 (the basis for his Danseuse Cambodgienne sketches, according to an author's note). Little Sap, a laundrywoman's niece, is chosen to train as a dancer at the palace, becomes an accomplished performer and travels to France with the troupe to perform for the Parisians. Hoshino, also making her debut, paints a winsome girl whose solemn, demure expression draws readers into her intimate world, filled with exotic poses and costumes. A set of spot illustrations explains the meaning of the hand gestures and poses of classical Cambodian dance: "Soon Little Sap learned to keep her face calm even when her insides jittered." And the juxtaposition of Little Sap's background and her new life come through fluidly in the text ("The gentle scritch scratch of Rodin's pencil reminded Sap of the chickens scratching in the dirt back home"). Both author and artist convincingly convey Monsieur Rodin's passion for the dancers, as well as the effect of his portraits on Sap ("No longer a simple country girl, Sap had grown into a graceful dancer, carrying her people's prayers to the heavens and her family's dreams for a better life"). The story presents a rare look at Cambodian culture through the eyes of a winning heroine. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)