Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin

By Washington Parent

When she travels to Paris for a colonial exhibition in 1906, a young Cambodian dancer inspires Auguste Rodin. Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin gives a wonderful sense of the history and culture of the time, as well as dramatizing an actual encounter between a famous European artist and an Asian child. The book opens in the practice room of the Royal Palace in Cambodia where the little farm girl feels ‘like a magpie in a pen of peacocks.’ Within a year, though, she has mastered the many intricate gestures associated with Cambodian dance and received her sampot (silk dancing pantaloons). When the troupe sets sail for France, Sap misses her family but knows her dancing helps improve their lot. She performs with such grace and dignity that she attracts the attention of a man with a ‘furry face’ who wants to sketch her. Sap poses for many hours, showing the bearded Rodin how, as a dancer, she carries ‘her people’s prayers to the heavens and her family’s dreams for a better life.’ Author Michelle Lord and illustrator Felicia Hoshino have created a memorable book indeed, by fusing a gentle tale with pictures alive with color and period detail.