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Seesaw Girl

Seesaw Girl

4.5 11
by Linda Sue Park, Mou-Sien Tseng (Illustrator), Jean Tseng (Illustrator)

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Jade never ventures beyond the walls of her family's Inner Court; in seventeenth-century Korea, a girl of good family does not leave home until she marries. She is enthralled by her older brother's stories about trips to the market and to the ancestral grave sites in the mountains, about reading and painting, about his conversations with their father about business


Jade never ventures beyond the walls of her family's Inner Court; in seventeenth-century Korea, a girl of good family does not leave home until she marries. She is enthralled by her older brother's stories about trips to the market and to the ancestral grave sites in the mountains, about reading and painting, about his conversations with their father about business and politics and adventures only boys can have. Jade accepts her destiny, and yet she is endlessly curious about what lies beyond the walls. A lively story with a vividly realized historical setting, "Seesaw Girl" recounts Jade Blossom's daring attempts to enlarge her world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This first novel set in 17th-century Korea centers on 12-year-old Jade Blossom, daughter of one of the king's advisers. With all the temerity of a 1990s girl, Jade plays tricks on her brother (with the help of her cousin Willow), and her yearning to see the world outside of her family's walled household ultimately leads her into trouble. She conceals herself in a basket on market day and catches her first glimpse of the mountains as well as a group of imprisoned Dutch sailors, whom she describes as wearing what looks like "yellow or brown sheep's wool on their cheeks and chins." Park manages to get across many of society's restrictions on girls and women, but often relies on telling rather than showing. For example, Jade says how much her view of the mountains affects her, yet she never describes what it is about the vista that moves her. Readers gain little insight into Jade's relationship with other members of her household or her daily routine. Though the novel glosses over the meaning of the Dutch sailors' appearance, a closing author's note helps to put it into context. Fortunately, Jean and Mou-sien Tseng's animated black-and-white drawings fill in many details missing in the text concerning dress and setting. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this historical look at Korea, readers are taken to the third century of the Choson Period (1300-1880), when upper class females were not allowed to leave the inner court of their family compound. Young Jade Blossom feels so confined by this and other confining traditions that she plays pranks on the boys, escapes to the outside world for a brief time, and even dabbles in the male art of painting. All of these things must be done in secrecy, so she longs to be granted great freedom, but her culture cannot allow it. Her final solution is to invent a seesaw that is used by jumping on instead of sitting on each end. She can then jump above the walls of her family home and see the outside world. In a novel that is historically accurate, right down to the social attitudes of rebellion, Park offers a touching portrait of a courageous girl. The book also includes a helpful historical afterward by the author with a bibliography. 1999, Yearling, $4.50 and $14.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Alexandria LaFaye<%ISBN%>0440416728
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Life in 17th-century Korea is not easy for a girl, even for the daughter of a wealthy family. Jade Blossom must learn to do the laundry, sew the clothes back together after each washing, help in the kitchen, and embroider flawlessly. Her world is circumscribed by the walls of the Inner Court where she will spend her life until she marries and then will be confined to the Inner Court of her husband's household. However, when her aunt and best friend since childhood gets married, Jade is determined to see her again. Park maintains a fine tension between the spirited girl's curiosity and her very limited sphere. Certainly Jade looks for opportunities to expand her horizons, but after her first disastrous foray to see Willow, she learns that those chances have to come within the walls of her own home. The story is full of lively action and vivid descriptions, enhanced by appealing black-and-white paintings, to give a clear sense of the period and reveal the world as Jade sees it. Even the minor characters have substance. The girl's parents are understanding but not indulgent. Her father is a thoughtful man, distant from the family, but looking at the possibilities for the future of his country. Her mother recognizes Jade's longings and shows her that it is possible to be content with her life. Like Jade's stand-up seesaw, Park's novel offers readers a brief but enticing glimpse at another time and place.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 17th-century Korea, the life of a noblewoman is extremely circumscribed: she leaves the inner court of her family home only to marry, or to attend a funeral. Jade, 12, is deeply attached to her older cousin Willow, and keenly feels the loss when Willow is married. She pesters her older brother Tiger Heart, however, to tell her tales of the market, the king's court, and the strange prisoners with red and gold hair; she longs to see the mountains she can barely glimpse above the family compound wall. The seesaw of the title, a Korean game, forms the climax of this quiet book and the key to Jade's seeing beyond her tightly enclosed world. The writing gracefully describes the extended structure of the family, the differences in how boys and girls of noble birth were educated, and the elaborate wedding ceremony. Park's afterword tells of a Dutch ship that ran aground in Korea near the time of the story, and what happened to the prisoners Jade's father defended. The evocative descriptions and Jade's intensity in creating new ways to learn will capture and hold readers. (b&w illustrations, bibliography) (Fiction. 8-12)

From the Publisher
In seventeenth-century Korea, a 12-year-old girl becomes aware of the complexities of class and gender differences in this historically enlightening story. Being of good family, Jade Blossom is forbidden to leave home until she marries. But curiosity leads Jade to secretly leave the Inner Court, a brief but eye-opening adventure that reveals heart-wrenching poverty, unexpected beauty, and the knowledge that her home's high walls offer both shelter and imprisonment. However, Jade discovers that creativity and imagination are powerful tools that can provide comfort and internal freedom. In descriptive, engaging prose, the story portrays the culture, traditions, and daily lives of the Korean aristocracy in a time of political and cultural change. Park sympathetically conveys the challenges and joys of becoming an adult, and offers perspective on the many meanings of "privileged." The lovely, delicate illustrations detail traditional clothing, architecture, and decorative arts for visualization and context. An author's note briefly explains Korean history and the lives of aristocratic women in the 1600s. Bibliography.
Booklist, ALA

"The evocative descriptions and Jade's intensity in creating new ways to learn will capture and hold readers." Kirkus Reviews

"Park's novel offers readers a brief but enticing glimpose at another time and place." School Library Journal

"A wonderful and exciting book." Children's Book Review Service

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.30(d)
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Linda Sue Park is the author of the Newbery Medal book A Single Shard and bestseller A Long Walk to Water. She has written several acclaimed picture book texts. She lives in Rochester, New York, with her family. For more information visit www.lspark.com and follower her on Twitter @LindaSuePark.

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Seesaw Girl 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story of a young Korean girl, her family and her culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was too short. 60 pages. There was no climax or exciting revelations. The story goes nowhere. The beginning is promising, but nothing happens at the end of the book. I guess it was realistic, but it was too boring and ordinary to be a great story. The writing is good, but the plot is a dud. This is the only bad novel of the Linda Sue Park collection. Save your money and buy another book. This one was a waste. I would give it 1.5 stars if I could.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is the most interesting one I have read all year. The way Linda Sue Park describes the life of each character must have taken tons of research. I am finished reading the novel itself, but the morals and spirits of the characters and their dreams are going to be with me always. This has been the best read all year. I have read A Single Shard twice through and am thrilled that there are more books in store for me. I am obsessed with aristocrat women in Asia so this novel was perfect. I cannot thank Ms. Linda Sue Park enough for the book that has changed me forever. Thank You. P.S. If you bookmark all the pages with pictures, you can go to bookmarks and pull up each picture. If you look closely, you can see every detail that Ms. Park describes on the pages before and after as well as more. And always remember to be greatfull for the privliges we have these days girls. Imagine being stuck inside your house untill you were married, then when you get to your husbands house, you stay there for the rest of your life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is wonderful book especially for kids around 4th grade and up. It really challenges the reader to walk in someone elses shoes and appreciate the freedoms we have everyday. I read this book when I was probably 11 and I have never forgotten it. It's still great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Jade Blossom lives in a family compound in seventeenth century Korea. Her father is an adviser to the king. Jade and her cousin, Willow, live in the female section of the compound, separately from the men and boys, but the girls take every opportunity to play tricks on Jade's brother. She and Willow are like sisters, and then Willow is married and moves to her own compound, where Jade will probably not be able to see her again. Jade's brother helps her to obtain paper and charcoal to try her hand at drawing. She longs to see the outside world, but the walls are too high to see over, and she is not allowed to roam outside the area. She really wants to see the mountains, so that she can draw them. One day, she hides in an empty outgoing market basket, and hops out in the marketplace, undetected. She sees many things, including girls her own age, and begins to realize that not everyone lives in a secluded compound. Then she sees a group of prisoners being herded toward the palace. They are very different looking with something that looks like yellow and brown sheep's wool on their chins and cheeks. She learns that they were shipwrecked, and will now be put on trial and likely executed, since foreigners are not allowed to enter the country. Jade pleads with her father to intervene on behalf of the prisoners in this exciting historical adventure. Park manages to convey the times and the setting with a feeling of reality. Black-and-white illustrations give visual insight as the story progresses and as Jade grows psychologically, while leaving you aware of the fact that her forward-thinking will never bring her much closer to her goals. SEESAW GIRL helps to show the dilemmas that many women still live with in other cultures of the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jade Blossom is not like every other twelve-year old daughter of a wealthy advisor in 17th century Korea. Although she is confined to the inner court of her family¿s village, Jade finds her own excitement by playing tricks on her brother and getting into trouble with her best friend and cousin Willow. Like all the other girls in her village Jade learns the role of women in her household and does everything from cooking the food and doing the laundry to sewing and cleaning. However, Jade Blossom is not like all the other girls in her family, she dreams of life outside the walls of the inner court. When Willow marries and moves away, Jade is lonely and becomes determined to see what lies beyond the outer wall. On a daring escape to see Willow and the outside world, Jade¿s eyes are open to the new and exciting world beyond the inner court. Once she has returned, Jade still longs to see it again and knows that it will never be possible. As a result, Jade finds herself looking for other ways to see the world beyond the inner court. Young readers will experience the life of a young Korean girl long ago and they will see how different life is now. Children will read about the many different cultural aspects of Jade¿s life and the role that women played in her society. Seesaw Girl opens the eyes of young readers to a life far different from anything they will ever experience, and teaches them to follow their dreams.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was very readable and I believe children will enjoy reading about historical Korean life. There aren't many books on Korea for children and this is one that should be read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is made for a child who is greedy for things, they had to wash things by hand