Goyangi Means Cat

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Overview

When Soo Min comes from Korea to live with her new American family, she struggles to learn English and adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. She finds great comfort in the family's cat, Goyangi - that is, until he runs away. After searching the streets with her mother, Soo Min discovers her beloved pet has returned to the house, and speaks her first English word - "Goyangi home." This gentle story reveals that home is truly where the heart is.

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Overview

When Soo Min comes from Korea to live with her new American family, she struggles to learn English and adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. She finds great comfort in the family's cat, Goyangi - that is, until he runs away. After searching the streets with her mother, Soo Min discovers her beloved pet has returned to the house, and speaks her first English word - "Goyangi home." This gentle story reveals that home is truly where the heart is.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The experience of being adopted by parents who speak another language is vividly portrayed in McDonnell's (Dog Wants to Play) account of the first weeks of a Korean child's life in a new country. Johnson and Fancher (A Boy Named FDR) dwell on the safe, comfortable home that Soo Min's American parents offer her; their collages highlight the colorful textiles that decorate the walls and furniture. Yet this warmth is no consolation for Soo Min, whose new parents know only "a few Korean words." Simple words (family, home, cat, etc.) appear in Korean within the artwork, making patterns that contrast with those in the house, just as Soo Min's language contrasts with theirs. "Goyangi," the word for cat, becomes the Siamese cat's new name; Soo Min lavishes attention on it, and when it disappears, she's inconsolable. "She cried for Goyangi. She cried for Korea. So many tears." But when Goyangi returns, Soo Min speaks her first English sentence—"Goyangi home." By facing head-on the difficulties that can sometimes accompany adoption, the book provides a sensitive depiction of an experience that readers—or their friends—may have gone through themselves. Ages 3–8. (May)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Soo Min's adoptive parents do all the right things. They learn and use many Korean words, and they decorate their home in patterns echoing East and West, but the food is strange to the child. So are Apah's beard and Omah's light eyes. Luckily, the child has Goyangi. Going home from the park, the library, or her new school is, in Soo Min's mind, going to the cat. Yet just as her love for the animal seems to ease her acculturation, it runs away. This loss proves too much for her. "She cried for Goyangi. She cried for Korea. So many tears. Omah held her and rocked her." This story of a small cat's role in Soo Min's transition is universal. But what makes this picture book so special is the integration of the Korean transliterated words into the text, and even into the art. There are words painted in Korean on each page, not in boldface, but integrated into the collage and oil illustrations and echoed throughout the story. Youngsters reading this book will learn a handful of Korean words. This title is an inspiration to the depth of communication and shared language that form the basis of cultural understanding.—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Little Soo Min arrives from Korea to her American adoptive family. She speaks no English, but she soon adds important words to their Korean vocabulary, such as "no" and "teddy bear." Best of all that is new in her life, she likes Goyangi, the cat. Soo Min's new mother and father take her places like the park and the library, but she always wants to go home to her cat. When Goyangi slips out the door one day, distressed Soo Min and her mother go searching for him in vain. Soo Min's tears are not only for her lost cat, but for the Korea she has left behind. Of course she is very happy when she can say, "Goyangi home." The naturalistic pictures that tell the simple visual story combine patterned paper collage with acrylic and oil paints. They convey details of the home and neighborhood where Soo Min now lives. The low-key scenes have an emotional overcast as Soo Min copes with the big changes in her life. Readers should be able to better understand the problems of new arrivals in a strange land. Words in Korean orthography are sketched in the background throughout. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Soo Min's adoptive parents do all the right things. They learn and use many Korean words, and they decorate their home in patterns echoing East and West, but the food is strange to the child. So are Apah's beard and Omah's light eyes. Luckily, the child has Goyangi. Going home from the park, the library, or her new school is, in Soo Min's mind, going to the cat. Yet just as her love for the animal seems to ease her acculturation, it runs away. This loss proves too much for her. "She cried for Goyangi. She cried for Korea. So many tears. Omah held her and rocked her." This story of a small cat's role in Soo Min's transition is universal. But what makes this picture book so special is the integration of the Korean transliterated words into the text, and even into the art. There are words painted in Korean on each page, not in boldface, but integrated into the collage and oil illustrations and echoed throughout the story. Youngsters reading this book will learn a handful of Korean words. This title is an inspiration to the depth of communication and shared language that form the basis of cultural understanding.—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
Kirkus Reviews

This beautifully illustrated, gentle adoption story stands out from most other treatments of the topic by honestly and reassuringly addressing the loss—of a birth family, a birth culture—inherent in adoption as well as the joy a new family experiences.

Here, Soo Min, a young Korean girl, is adopted by an American couple. Everything seems strange and new: She doesn't speak any English; her adoptive parents know little Korean. She finds comfort with Goyangi ("cat"), who doesn't need language to communicate, whose fur she strokes when afraid and who "licked her hand with his towelly tongue" when she is homesick for Korea. Soft-focus collage-and-paint illustrations show the family members getting to know one another: at the playground, in the library, playing soccer and just spending time at home together. Korean words in hanja (characters) incorporated into the pictures' backgrounds and the presence of Korean words in the Western alphabet interspersed throughout the text make this an excellent choice to share with children like Soo Min; seeing the words in both languages comforts as well as educates. Soo Min's age isn't specified; she looks about 2 or 3, which is older than most Korean children adopted in the United States, but that doesn't take away from the main idea.

A sensitive portrayal of international adoption, authentically and realistically done. (Picture book. 4-7)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670011797
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/12/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 713,521
  • Age range: 4 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Johnson lives in Minneapolis, MN.
Lou Fancher lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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