Childrens Book Review of Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and Eddie Flotte

by DerdriuMarriner

Cinderella stories deal with stepmom and stepsis issues. They usually have no problem fathers. But that is one of many ways in which “Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella” stands out.

Cinderella stories emphasize the importance of astute parenting. Little Cinderella typically enjoys the love of both her parents for a brief time. Her mother expires tragically. Her father feels incapable of raising an only child on his own. He and a widowed mother tenuously find love a second time around. But Cinderella’s stepmother gains control of the household through her second husband’s:
• Unmitigated grief;
• Untimely death or debility.

Cinderella goes through distressing emotional and physical arcs. But she manages to triumph through:
• A fairy godmother;
• A handsome, power-holding youth;
• A tiny slipper.

Two of the above-mentioned variables may be found in “Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella.” But readers will not find a fairy godmother or a loving father.

In the Cambodian Cinderella story, Angkat releases into her father's smallest fish pond a small fish, which she soon discovers is magical:

fish pond at National Museum of Cambodia
National Museum of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, south central Cambodia
National Museum of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, south central Cambodia


Cambodia’s child of ashes carries the name Angkat. The Cambodian Cinderella does not have a mother figure until her lonely fisherman father marries a widowed mother. The second wife expects the catcher of the biggest fish to receive the honorary title of Number One child. Angkat quickly finds four fish but loses the three biggest through her stepsister Kantok’s thievery. She frees the small fish into the smallest of her father’s fish ponds before becoming the uncomplaining Number Two child of cleaning, cooking, and firewood-gathering chores. But her only happiness has a shelf life when Kantok makes Angkat’s pet fish lunch. The Spirit of Virtue nevertheless implores Angkat to hide the fish bones under her sleeping mat.


Angkat cherishes a short-lived friendship with a magical fish in the Cambodian Cinderella story:

fish depicted on Bayon temple, Angkor complex, ca. late 12th or early 13th century
Siem Reap, northwestern Cambodia
Siem Reap, northwestern Cambodia


Angkat finds golden slippers in the morning. One slipper gets grabbed by a big black bird and subsequently tumbled into the palace courtyard’s gardens. The Crown Prince has all maidens try on the slipper. After collecting -- with the help of chickens -- rice upended in a field by her stepmother, fitting into the slipper, and producing the other, Angkat is married. But she leaves to visit her purportedly sick father. Father, stepmother, and stepsister murder Angkat. The crime scene ironically nurtures a red-leafed banana plant, which Angkat’s father removes to the forest. The prince shortly thereafter travels to the spot, from which he removes graceful bamboo. The Spirit of Virtue turns the bamboo back into Angkat.


Chickens help Angkat to collect rice mischievously tossed into a field by Angkat's stepmother in the Cambodian Cinderella story:

Chicken crossing the road within Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex.
Siem Reap, northwestern Cambodia
Siem Reap, northwestern Cambodia



The Cinderella fairy tale within Cambodia’s folklore dates back hundreds of years. Its first known European translation goes back to Le Conte de Cendrillon Chez les Cham (The Cinderella Tale among the Cham), by Alençon-born Frenchman Adhémar Leclère (May 12, 1853 – March 16, 1917), as:

  • Diplomat;
  • Economist;
  • Ethnologist;
  • Poet;
  • Writer.  

It has as its most charming, colorful, contemporary update the China-printed, 1998-released collaboration, Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella, by:

  • Jewell Reinhart Coburn, as Southeast Asia-specialized recipient of a doctorate in Higher Education Administration;
  • Edmund Flotte, as Philadelphia-born, Maui-relocated illustrator;
  • Shen’s Books, as California-based publishers specializing in cultural diversity.

This “must-own” book -- intended for kindergarteners to third-graders -- includes watercolors which are based upon real-time Cambodian language-speaking models,


Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn ~ illustrated by Eddie Flotte

In the first English retelling of this ancient Cambodian tale, our heroine goes further, survives more, and has to conquer her own mortality to regain her rightful place.
Cinderella stories



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Among Angkat's physical arcs in the Cambodian Cinderella story is temporary transformation into a graceful bamboo plant.

Cambodia: bamboo
Cambodia: bamboo

Sources Consulted


Coburn, Jewell Reinhart. 1998. Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella. Illustrated by Eddie Flotte. Walnut Creek, California: Shen's Books.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Cinderella: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 12/11/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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