What Will You Be, Sara Mee?


Will she be an artist? A cook? A writer?

Sara Mee is turning one, and her family and friends gather for her tol, or first-birthday celebration. Food and presents abound, but most exciting of all is the traditional Korean prophecy game, called the toljabee, which predicts what Sara Mee will be when she grows up.

A book for all cultures, WHAT WILL YOU BE, SARA MEE? celebrates siblings, community, and the ...

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Will she be an artist? A cook? A writer?

Sara Mee is turning one, and her family and friends gather for her tol, or first-birthday celebration. Food and presents abound, but most exciting of all is the traditional Korean prophecy game, called the toljabee, which predicts what Sara Mee will be when she grows up.

A book for all cultures, WHAT WILL YOU BE, SARA MEE? celebrates siblings, community, and the blending of traditions.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The collaborators' close connection to their book's theme—Avraham (Joey's Way) has an adopted Korean daughter, and O'Brien grew up in a bicultural family in South Korea—adds authenticity and warmth to this story of a Korean-American girl's first birthday celebration. Sara Mee's extended family and friends gather for a traditional tol, at which items representing various professions are placed before her; the object she first touches designates her future path. The narrator, Sara Mee's cheerful six-year-old brother, Chong, is honored to be a key participant in the ceremony and is thrilled when his sister reaches for a symbolic paintbrush. Chong gives her paper and crayons, and she draws pictures for which he—who at his own tol made a choice that evidently predicted a writing career—supplies the text. Rendered in ink brushline and watercolor, O'Brien's (the Jamaica series) illustrations are welcoming, if not especially memorable; there's no real emotional range beyond genial smiles exhibited among the members of Sara Mee's family. Avraham provides a glossary of Korean words used in the story. Ages 3–6. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Sara Mee is about to mark her first birthday—a very special day in her Korean-American family. After she is dressed in the colorful silk hanbok her grandmother made for the occasion, family and friends gather to celebrate with food and presents. The highlight comes when they play the game toljabee, which predicts what Sara Mee will be when she grows up. The story is told by her older brother, Chong, who anxiously awaits the game. He is excited when he is allowed to participate by presenting the game pieces to his sister. Sara Mee reaches for the paintbrush and waves it in the air, and everyone knows she will be an artist. Chong puts a pack of paper with crayons in front of her, and while she draws, he writes words to go with her picture. A glossary identifies the Korean words and their meanings, but there is no pronunciation guide. The illustrations are ink brush line with watercolor and done in vibrant colors. The love among family and friends is evident in these pictures, depicting their joy about this important event.—Margaret R. Tassia, Millersville University, PA
Kirkus Reviews
The celebration of a Korean baby's first birthday has special significance, with a fortune-telling ritual taking center stage. Big brother Chong considers his little sister's future throughout the day, wondering if she might grow up to become a musician, a dress designer or even the captain of a boat. The prophecy ceremony finally begins with symbolic objects drawn from a box and placed within reach of baby Sara Mee. What will she choose? The premise intrigues, but this choice delivers more information than story. Although Chong has some sweet moments with the baby, he is not a complete character. A glaring question-what did Chong pick at his first birthday?-is never asked, although the answer is indicated. O'Brien's illustrations, done in ink brushline and watercolor, although colorful and pleasing, leave the characters two-dimensional and add little to an already weak story. Further, Chong's mother's assurance that "Girls can be anything in America," sounds an oddly discordant note. Still, readers interested in Korean culture will welcome the description of this unique tradition, especially since there is little else on the topic. (glossary, author's note) (Picture book. 3-6)
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
On her first birthday, Sara Mee is dressed in the traditional Korean attire for the celebration of tol. Family members bring gifts, delicious food is eaten, and drums are played all in anticipation of the main activity—the prophecy game called toljabee. Several items are carefully set on the table—a small bow and arrow, a paintbrush, a bag of coins, a book, spoon, and yarn. Tiny Sara Mee is seated before the table, and whichever item she reaches for will determine what she will be when she grows up. Will she a be a soldier, an artist, successful in business, or a scholar? As everyone waits in silence, Sara Mee grabs the paintbrush with her chubby hand and waves it in the air. With that settled, the celebration continues while an exhausted Sara Mee sleeps clutching a scrap of paper with her first squiggles. Little Sara is quite adorable in her red dress, striped jacket, and traditional hat with embroidered flowers, yet the watercolors are dark and heavy and facial expressions of the people are bland. The subject matter may limit the appeal of the book to Korean families or families who have adopted Korean children and want to keep them connected to their culture. Classroom teachers may find it useful for studies on other cultures and unique traditions. Korean words used throughout are defined in the glossary but there is no pronunciation guide. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580892117
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2010
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,075,252
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Aver Avraham is a poet, children's author, and art enthusiast. She is the author of JOEY'S WAY. Kate lives in Santa Cruz, California.
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