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Sing to the Dawn

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FORM : __________________________________________

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Minfong Ho is an award-winning ChineseAmerican writer. Her various types of writing

frequently deal with the lives of people living in poverty in Southeast Asian countries. Her stories
are always set against the backdrop of real events, such as the student movement
in Thailand in the 1970s and the Cambodian refugee problem with the collapse of the Khmer
Rouge regime at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s. Her simple yet touching language and her
optimistic themes have made her writing popular among children as well as young adults.
Minfong Ho was the winner of S.E.A. Write Award in 1996.

Sing To The Dawn by Minfong Ho

The story is about a young Thai girl called Dawan, living in a small village, who won a
scholarship to study in a city middle school. She faced the disapproval of her father who
thought that studying was not for girls and she should have given the scholarship to her
brother as he was second in the test. Dawan tried many ways to persuade her father to
let her further her studies. She fought for her right to get basic education to see more of
the world beyond her small village. Even though she failed many times, she managed to
convince her father in the end. When the bus arrived to take her to the city, she almost
changed her mind because she was reluctant to leave everything and everyone in the

village. After her grandmother convinced her, she finally went, leaving the village behind
her to pursue her dream.

A village Thai family

Typical village boys


A Thai girl in school uniform

The city

Note :
Sing to the Dawn is set in a time period in which
women are considered inferior to men and are perceived
to be undeserving of education.


Dawan (14 years old) and Kwai (13 years old) spent the morning talking about the
scholarship to study in a city school.
Kwai was quite hopeful and Dawan felt that she would not get the scholarship
because she was a girl.
Their parents thought that it was foolish and wasteful to send girls to school.
The teacher asked his students what they saw beneath their houses in the
He had a long discussion with the students about the landlord taking away sacks
of rice beneath their houses.
The headmaster headed to their class and listened to the discussion before going
The teacher and students discussed what they should do if they won the
The teacher announced that Dawan won the scholarship.

The classmates surrounded Dawan as soon as they heard that she won the
Kwai was unhappy and upset that Dawan won the scholarship, not him.
Dawan told her family that she got the scholarship and that made her father angry.
He accused Dawan of taking her own brother's chance away from him.
Dawans mother was reluctant to give her opinion (being scared and loyal to her
Dawan's grandmother however supported her.
Dawan and her grandmother planned to go to Noi's house. However, halfway
there, Dawan's mother decided to go with Dawan instead of her grandmother - her
grandmother was too old and it was a long journey (3 kilometres) to walk under the
hot sun.
The conversation at Nois house - Dawans mother, Noi (Dawans cousin, 5-6 years
older than her, married and had a small baby) and Ghan (Nois husband).
Noi said that going to the city was useless, not good and not healthy. She went to
the city to work, not to study but had to come back home because the city was an
ugly and cruel place to work.
Ghan worked in the city as part of a work crew.
Noi and Ghan tried to discourage Dawan from going to the city because it would
bring more harm than good.
Mr Phaspras (Army officer) made a deal with Noi's family in order not to take Ghan
into the army (Noi and Ghan had to pay him a lot of money)
After listening to what Noi and Ghan said, Dawan was still determined to go to the
Kwai was upset when he knew that Dawan and their mother went to see Noi and
Kwai and Dawan argued over the issue of winning the scholarship.
Kwai came in second in the examination but he was hoping to go to the city.
At the same time, Kwai was scared of telling their father his result because Dawan
might not be allowed to go. He was in a confused state.
Dawan's father was very unapproachable. He did not want her to go to the city.
He thought that boys going to the city to study would be better than girls.
Kwai was hopeful after he heard that.
Dawans father would not listen to her reasons. She decided to see the gentle old
monk of the village temple. Maybe he could influence her father to change his
Dawan went to the busy and crowded marketplace alone early in the morning
because she wanted to meet the monk at the temple.
She met a girl, Bao who sold lotus buds and caged sparrows.
Dawan wanted to buy a lotus bud but Bao gave it for free to her.
She also wanted to free a caged bird to make merit but she did not have enough
money (only ten cents).
From their conversation, Dawan found out that Bao was Vichais sister (Dawans
classmate the boy who sat behind her in class).
Dawan went to see the old monk/head monk/elderly abbot in the temple.




They talked in the open courtyard outside the temple.

Dawan's teacher and the old monk were good friends, so he already told the monk
about Dawans scholarship.
Dawan pleaded with the monk so that he could persuade her father to let her go to
study in the city (her father respected the monk and would listen to what he said).
The old monk did not see the need for Dawan to go to the city school. He refused
to help her because he did not believe in the idea of girls furthering their studies.
He talked much about the Holy Ones teaching and Heaven.
Dawan ran off in bitterness and tears.
Bao allowed Dawan to release a bird for free.
Bao's brother, Vichai, came to the market stall and hit her because of that.
Kwai stopped Vichai from hitting Bao.
After realising that Bao knew about what happened between Dawan and Kwai,
Kwai wanted to slap Bao. Bao accused of both Vichai and Kwai as big bullies.
Kwai pushed Dawan away when she tried to stop him from hitting Bao.
Dawan landed on top of a pile of broken birdcages, injuring herself.
Cousin Noi helped Dawan with her bleeding ankle.
Dawan limped off alone to return home.
In the heavy rain, Dawan went to the river to sit on the old bridge but Kwai was
already there.
Kwai was thinking about Dawan's words (about him being a bully).
The siblings talked about what happened and expressed their feelings about the
whole issue.
Kwai realised that Dawan was a caring sister and he finally made his decision.
Both of them returned home together.
On their way home in the heavy rain, they saw their father leading the buffalo
home (which Kwai forgot to do).
They decided to hide from him because he looked angry but later they approached
Their father heard from the teacher that Kwai got second in the test and was angry
at him for not telling him about it.
Back at home, their grandmother tried to comfort the scared Dawan.
Father had a good and serious discussion with Kwai and Dawan about the
Father was very reluctant to let Dawan go to the city school but Dawan and Kwai
managed to convince him. He finally allowed Dawan to go.
Kwai was both happy and sad at the same time about their fathers decision.
Dawans last morning at home.
At dawn, she went to the top of the old wooden bridge and saw that Kwai was
already there.
The siblings talked about Dawans leaving the village.
Kwai would miss Dawan because no one would be there to watch the sunrise with
He cried and ran off.
Dawan started singing her morning song one last time before going home to get

ready to go to the city.

At first Dawan was unsure if she wanted to leave because she would miss
everything and everyone in her village.
Her grandmother gave her a lot of advice and encouragement to persuade her to
go. She gave Dawan a glass jar of lotus bud.
When she was boarding the bus to go to the city, Kwai was nowhere to be seen.
Although many people in the village sent her off, she was not happy as Kwai was
not there.
Along the bus journey, she saw Kwai on the bridge that they usually went to, he
was waving goodbye at her, singing their favourite morning song, which she
continued singing until she could not see him anymore.



Close family ties

Gender inequality/biasness (boys versus girls)
Ideals versus reality
Village life versus city life
Future and opportunities

Love & Care





















Everyone deserves an equal right to education

We should work hard to improve the quality of our family life
Appreciate and take care of nature
We should have a positive attitude
Be open-minded and approachable
We have to listen to others and be more tolerant
Have confidence in life
Determination is the key to success

9. We should respect our elders

10. Focus on the family


Based on the novel that you have studied, write about a character that you like.
Give three reasons.


Write about an important moral value in the novel that you have studied.


Based on the novel that you have studied, write about a character you sympathise
with. Explain why you choose him/her.


Based on the novel that you have studied, write about the most memorable event
in the story. Give reasons for your choice.


Based on the novel that you have studied, write about the theme, family love.


Based on the novel that you have studied, write about determination. Support your
answer with evidence from the story.


Based on the novel that you have studied, write about a character you look up to.
Give reasons for your choice.


Based on the novel that you have studied, describe what happens at the end of
the story. Explain why you find the ending either happy or sad.


Write about a difficult decision made by one of the characters. Do you think this
was the right decision?


Write about an important incident that you remember. Give reasons why you
remember the incident.


Which part of the story do you like most? Give reasons for your choice.


Write about an event that makes you angry. Give reasons why the event makes
you feel this way.


Write about an important decision made by on of the characters. Explain how it

affects the other character(s).


One has to struggle to improve ones life.

How far is this true of the novel you have studied?