Moles and the Mireuk: A Korean Folktale

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a fresh retelling, the familiar theme of a parent seeking the best possible spouse for a child is whimsically brought to life. Papa and mama mole think their daughter--she of ``the softest gray fur and a delicately pointed nose''--is sheer perfection, so to find ``the most suitable husband,'' papa addresses in turn the sky, the sun, the clouds and so on. Not surprisingly, his answer is at last found close to home, at the foot of the towering gray stone temple called the Mireuk. Though the book's rather subdued cover belies the fun within, the artwork is the real star here. Hubbard, known for her wildly original books ( C Is for Curious ; Two Is for Dancing ) supplies imaginative, hip illustrations that dance across the pages in freely-drawn lines and squiggles. Trees sport rainbow foliage; a white-dotted purple bird proudly bears candy-cane plumage; a lavender-faced Wind puffs a house, a car, an airplane and a boat through deep blue curlicues. Even the graceful typeface with ample leading is just right. This version of the Oriental tale may lack the theatricality of this season's The Rats' Daughter (last fall's The Greatest of All provides yet a third variant on the story) but offers a particular quiet charm all its own. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-- This winsome folktale, common to the Altaic languages, is presented here in its Korean variant. Although appearing in English before in Frances Carpenter's Tales of a Korean Grandmother (Tuttle, 1972), it is perhaps better known in its Japanese incarnation in which the animals involved are mice. The Mireuk of the title is a type of Korean stone statuary. Living near one is a mole couple who think their daughter has superior attributes and consequently seek the worthiest husband for her. Father mole first approaches the sky as the best choice. The sky, however, is cowed by the sun, who in turn defers to the king of the clouds, who thinks the wind is most powerful. And so it goes, until the proud father realizes that a mole son-in-law is best after all, and his daughter marries a suitable one. The retelling is simple and direct with enough details to maintain interest and not so many as to pall. While it lacks the flavor of Carpenter's retelling, it gains in more colloquial language. Hubbard's bright illustrations in a primitive style amplify the text, but do little to sustain its mood. Though some genuflection to authenticity of detail has been made, a European bridal veil and double-bass player at the wedding are distinctly un-Korean. --John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library
Ilene Cooper
A Korean variant of the familiar tale in which an animal father seeks out the forces of nature to find a husband for his daughter. Here, it's Papa Mole, whose family lives at the foot of a stone Buddha, a "Mireuk". Papa decides to begin his search for the most powerful husband in the universe with the Sky, who sends him to the Sun, who insists he sees the Clouds, who point him toward the Wind. But the Wind directs him to the Mireuk: "For several hundred years I have tried to blow it down, but it still stands steadfast." The Mireuk agrees he is strong--the Sun can't melt him, the Clouds, Rain, and Wind can't destroy him--but what he fears are moles, who dig under the earth and make him topple. So Papa chooses a fine young mole as a husband for his daughter, pleased he could find the most powerful husband so close to home. Kwon's telling, very simple and accessible, is set in a large typeface that makes the book a possibility for easy reading. The watercolor art may be viewed as abstract, but there is also a naivete that works well in animal fables. Libraries with a Korean population will certainly want to add this.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395643471
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 3/29/1993
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.59 (w) x 10.35 (h) x 0.35 (d)

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