Sing to the Dawn – Minfong Ho

Minfong Ho is a Singaporean who grew up in Thailand and now makes her home in Ithaca, New York. She is also author of Rice Without Rain, The Clay Marble and Maples in the Mist. She also co-authored Sing to the Dawn, the musical based on the book.

The book in one sentence: A simple story about a simple girl living in rural Thailand fighting against the odds to study in the city.

Who would you recommend it to: Anyone looking for a quick but meaningful read.

OK bits: The protagonist Dawan and her brother Kwai.

Boring bits: The Buddhist monk who tries to discourage her from studying in the city with the reason that everything is temporary and will not last.

Verdict: I usually do not enjoy stories with an Asian setting very much. This is one of the few that I did. I love how Dawan is a strong female character that refuses to be discouraged by the people around her about the horrors of the city; yet, she is fully aware that it is not necessarily a better life she will lead when she gets there. This book was the winner of the S. E. A. Write Award 1996 and won 1st prize for the Council of Interracial Books for Children, New York (though I’m puzzled because there wasn’t any interracial content).


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Minfong
    May 23, 2008 @ 07:26:37

    Interesting comment about the interracial books prize – I never thought of it that way! The prize was given in the US for four categories: Asian / Hispanic / Black / and I forgot what the other non-white category was. I guess it”s only interracial because they assume it would be white kids reading about non-white kids. Pretty lame, huh?

    Anyway, thanks for the nice review. Have you tried my latest book, “Journeys”? It’s a collection of short stories – many not set in Asia!

    All best,


    nylusmilk: hello! wow, the second time an author visited my humble bookblog. 🙂 yes, that’s kinda lame, haha. i mean, interracial would suggest characters of different races, not between reader and character!

    i found your book in my college library, i don’t think it’s that up-to-date to have your latest. 🙂 i’ll try to look out for it elsewhere, though.


  2. >Mafia
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 10:20:26

    the book is nice and interesting, i love this book, another question, the first comment is it post by the real author of sing to the dawn: minfong ho? thx for answer my question!

    12 July 2008

    nylusmilk: i believe it’s the author herself who left the comment. 🙂


  3. MRTCrazyness
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 20:42:06

    Very nice book. I am doing this book for my literature. Very good characterisation and description.

    nylusmilk: agree! 🙂 it’s simple yet detailed.


  4. AppleButter
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 16:27:28

    Geez! Minfong Ho actually has time to google who/what talked about her books!

    nylusmilk: i think it’s a nice gesture that she left a comment here.


  5. akshaya
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 17:37:52

    hi i am also doing this book for my lit…


  6. t0136181z
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 20:20:46

    Your book very awesome


  7. t0136181z
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 20:22:06

    LOL them nice


  8. yeo zong han
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 21:00:19

    hi, i’m a secondary boy who is doing Sing To The Dawn as my literature text. it is an awesome book. thks!


  9. Lily Wong
    Apr 14, 2016 @ 20:10:33

    I am of the opinion that one of this year’s selected novels for SPM Form 5 students in Malaysia is a good one. My students are able to empathize with Dawan as they also believe that education is their way out of poverty. Gender bias which was and still is prevalent in many parts of Asia is an interesting theme to explore in addition to the symbolism of the lotus flower in the story. Thank you.


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