Peacebound Trains

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Overview

As Sumi waits for the train that will bring her mother back after a long absence, Grandmother tells how her family escaped on a train from Seoul, Korea, at the last moment before the Korean War began.

Sumi's grandmother tells the story of her family's escape from Seoul during the Korean War, while they watch the trains which will eventually bring her mother back from army service.

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Peacebound Trains

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Overview

As Sumi waits for the train that will bring her mother back after a long absence, Grandmother tells how her family escaped on a train from Seoul, Korea, at the last moment before the Korean War began.

Sumi's grandmother tells the story of her family's escape from Seoul during the Korean War, while they watch the trains which will eventually bring her mother back from army service.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A lovely combination picture book/chapter book based, according to the author's note, on family memories about the trauma of leaving a beloved home for fear of an invading army; in this case, there is the added tragedy of civil war, with brother fighting brother as South Korea and the Communist North battle over Seoul. . . . In expressive watercolors, Soentpiet provides an accurate look at Korean culture of the 1950s as well as Sumi's contemporary setting." Kirkus Reviews

"While her mother serves a stint in the army, Korean-American Sumi, whose father is dead, lives with her harmuny (grandmother). The child longs for her mother's return, particularly as her birthday nears. Harmuny sits beside Sumi as she watches for a train and tells her the story of the 'peacebound' train that saved her life and the lives of her two children (including Sumi's mother) during the communist invasion of Seoul in 1950. . . . The text, divided into short chapters, is gracefully written and told with great emotion. The richly colored illustrations are splashed with light, and convey the unfolding drama. Facial expressions are particularly effective. A brief glossary of Korean terms and an author's note about the history are appended. Readers will come away from this book with the understanding that the struggle for peace is universal and timeless, and that sometimes sacrifices must be made to achieve it." School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
This is a story within a story. Sumi lives on East Blossom Hill with her grandmother. She likes to watch the trains cross the bridge down in the valley. Someday a train will bring her mother back from a tour of duty with the Army. Today, as Sumi clutches the cloth doll her mother sent as a birthday gift, she misses her mother more than ever. Her grandmother joins her and the poignant sound of the train whistle inspires the elderly woman to tell Sumi of a train she took as a young woman in Korea. Grandmother lived with her husband and two children in Seoul, perilously close to the border separating North and South Korea. When China joined forces with the North in the invasion of South Korea, many of the inhabitants fled for their lives. Grandmother tells Sumi how she and her small children had to travel on the roof of a crowded train. They arrived safely in the city of Pusan, but Grandfather went off to the war and they never saw him again. Grandmother and Sumi comfort each other, looking forward to the day when Sumi's mother will arrive on the train to be with them once again. It is a moving and well-told tale of the triumph of the human spirit over life's hardships.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-While her mother serves a stint in the army, Korean-American Sumi, whose father is dead, lives with her harmuny (grandmother). The child longs for her mother's return, particularly as her birthday nears. Harmuny sits beside Sumi as she watches for a train and tells her the story of the "peacebound" train that saved her life and the lives of her two children (including Sumi's mother) during the communist invasion of Seoul in 1950. Harmuny also tells of her husband, Sumi's grandfather, who remained behind as a soldier and was never heard from again. Harmuny then hugs the girl and tells her that soon they will meet the train bringing her mother home "safe and sound." (Paradoxically, the illustration facing this final page of text portrays only Sumi's grandfather who did not return safe and sound.) The text, divided into short chapters, is gracefully written and told with great emotion. The richly colored illustrations are splashed with light, and convey the unfolding drama. Facial expressions are particularly effective. A brief glossary of Korean terms and an author's note about the history are appended. Readers will come away from this book with the understanding that the struggle for peace is universal and timeless, and that sometimes sacrifices must be made to achieve it.-Cynthia K. Richey, Mt. Lebanon Public Library, Pittsburgh, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A lovely combination picture book/chapter book based, according to the author's note, on family memories about the trauma of leaving a beloved home for fear of an invading army; in this case, there is the added tragedy of civil war, with brother fighting brother as South Korea and the Communist North battle over Seoul. Sorrowful because her birthday is three days away and her widowed mother will still be absent, Sumi goes to her favorite spot, where she can watch the trains pass by. Her grandmother comes to comfort her, telling her about the time years ago when she rode in the middle of winter with her young children on the roof of a train that carried her away from her husband and home, forever. It is far more heartbreaking than Sumi's own troubles, and soon she is comforting her grandmother. Balgassi's mother took such a ride; here the incident is woven into a poignant, accessible story, useful not only for those wishing to explore their Korean roots, but for readers aware of or curious about the dislocations of war. In expressive watercolors, Soentpiet provides an accurate look at Korean culture of the 1950s as well as Sumi's contemporary setting.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395720936
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 8 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Seoul, Korea, Haemi Balgassi immigrated to the United States when she was seven. She edits a quarterly literary magazine, writes fiction and poetry for adults, and is an avid Scrabble player. Ms. Balgassi lives in Westfield, Massachusetts, with her family.

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    Posted February 25, 2010

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