This powerful and riveting tale of one close-knit, proud Korean family movingly addresses life-and-death issues of courage and collaboration, injustice, and death-defying determination in the face of totalitarian oppression. —Kirkus Reviews with Pointers
A brother and sister alternate as narrators in Newbery Medalist Park's (A Single Shard) well-contructed novel, which takes place from 1940-1945 in Japanese-occupied Korea. . . .Through the use of shifting narrators, Park subtly points up the differences between male and female roles in Korean society; and the father's process of choosing the family's Japanese name speaks volumes about his strength and intelligence. . . . Readers will come away with an appreciation of this period of history and likely a greater interest in learning more about it. —Publishers Weekly, Starred
Park is a masterful prose stylist, and her characters are developed beautifully. She excels at making traditional Korean culture accessible to Western readers. —VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
The drama is in the facts about the war, and Park does a fine job of showing how the politics of the occupation and resistance affect ordinary people. —Booklist, ALA
What is outstanding is the insight Park gives into the complex minds of these young people. Each of them reacts to the events in different ways—Sun-hee takes refuge in writing while Tae-yul throws his energies into physical work. . . . This beautifully crafted and moving novel joins a small but growing body of literature[.] —School Library Journal, Starred
"Vivid…historical details heighten realism. The final scene shines with hope….a beautifully crafted story that delights as it informs." —Riverbank Review
Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard) has written a poignant novel about the World War II-era Japanese occupation of Korea, when even Korean names were forbidden. Kim Sun-hee and her older brother Tae-yul must cope not only with the rigors of occupation but their own family secrets, as well.
As she did so effectively in her Newbery Award winner, A Single Shard, Park makes Korean history emotionally compelling in this excellent novel. Chapters alternate between Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, as Korea suffers under harsh Japanese rule during World War II. The two are forced to give up their Korean names and most possessions; spend their school days bombarded by propaganda; and lose contact with their beloved uncle, a resistance fighter. In a startling climax, Tae-yul makes a patriotic decision that could change the family forever. This is a gripping read.
"A brother and sister alternate as narrators in this well-constructed novel, which takes place from 1940-1945 in Japanese-occupied Korea," wrote PW in a starred review. "Through the use of the shifting narrators, Park subtly points up the differences between male and female roles in Korean society and telling details provide a clear picture of the siblings and their world." Ages 10-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
It has become general knowledge only recently that during World War II, the Japanese government enslaved thousands of young Korean women, forcing them to act as army prostitutes. Although Park, author of 2002 Newbery winner A Single Shard (Clarion, 2001/see previous VOYA review), barely mentions this horrendous act in her superb new novel, she does make it clear how thoroughly Japan mistreated the people of Korea in the years from 1910 to 1945. Alternating between the viewpoints of ten-year-old Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, the novel depicts with great delicacy and discernment what life was like in Korea during the war years. The Japanese attempted to assimilate their nearest mainland neighbors while at the same time refusing to grant them any meaningful equality. Korean culture was suppressed ruthlessly. It was illegal to teach the Korean alphabet, and everyone was required to adopt a Japanese name. Sun-hee watches helplessly as Japanese superiors humiliate her father, a great scholar who legally cannot be principal of his own school. Her uncle, who runs an underground printing operation, must go into hiding. To avoid Japanese attempts to use him to betray his uncle, Tae-yul is forced to join the Imperial Air Force and then is taken on a dangerous mission from which he is unlikely to return. Park is a masterful prose stylist, and her characters are developed beautifully. She excels at making traditional Korean culture accessible to Western readers. This lovely and powerful novel is one clearly deserving of award consideration. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High,defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Clarion, 199p,
An ALA Best Book for YAs, this book is also reviewed as an audiobook in this issue of KLIATT. To quote from that review, "This unusual book of historical fiction, told from the point of view of young adolescents, is set in a Korea occupied by Japan; it concludes at the end of WW II. A sister and brother, Sun-hee (Keoko of the title) and Tae-yul, experience the fears and humiliations that go with military defeat. Japanese hold all positions of power. The people must speak Japanese and take Japanese names. When Japan attacks the US, Koreans are expected to join the Japanese war effort even though they secretly know that Japan's defeat would mean their liberation... An excellent choice for students with Korean roots and good students who like substance in their stories. Valuable for discussion in a literature or history class." KLIATT Codes: J*Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2002, Random House, Dell Yearling, 199p. bibliog., Ages 12 to 15.
Gr 6-9-Living in Korea in the 1940s was difficult because the Japanese, who occupied the country, seemed determined to obliterate Korean culture and to impose their own on its residents. Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, still go to school every day, but lessons now consist of lectures and recitations designed to glorify Japan. To add to their unhappiness, everyone, adults and children alike, must give up their Korean names and take new Japanese ones. Sun-hee, now called Keoko, and Tae-yul, newly named Nobuo, tell the story in alternating narrative voices. They describe the hardships their family is forced to face as Japan becomes enmeshed in World War II and detail their individual struggles to understand what is happening. Tension mounts as Uncle, working with the Korean resistance movement, goes into hiding, and Tae-yul takes a drastic step that he feels is necessary to protect the family. What is outstanding is the insight Park gives into the complex minds of these young people. Each of them reacts to the events in different ways-Sun-hee takes refuge in writing while Tae-yul throws his energies into physical work. Yet in both cases they develop subtle plans to resist the enemy. Like the Rose of Sharon tree, symbol of Korea, which the family pots and hides in their shed until their country is free, Sun-hee and Tae-yul endure and grow. This beautifully crafted and moving novel joins a small but growing body of literature, such as Haemi Balgassi's Peacebound Trains (Clarion, 1996) and Sook Nyul Choi's The Year of Impossible Goodbyes (Houghton, 1991), that expands readers' understanding of this period.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The author of three novels set in different periods of Korean history (A Single Shard, 2001, etc.) now turns to WWII for the story of a brother and sister and their lives with their parents and uncle. Telling their story in alternating voices, the two siblings offer complementary and sometimes different versions of events. Sun-hee, in the last year of elementary school in 1940, loves studying and is an obedient daughter while older brother Tae-yul loves speed and machines. Their uncle is a source of concern because he publishes an underground, anti-Japanese newspaper. The Japanese had conquered Korea in 1910 and as the war looms their demands on the Koreans intensify. Food grows scarcer and the Koreans, long forbidden to study their own culture and language, now must take Japanese names. Thus Sun-hee becomes Keoko. In one memorable passage, Sun-hee misunderstands an oblique warning from her Japanese friend and assumes that her uncle's life is in danger. He flees, never to be seen again as the war and the post-war communist government in the north keep them apart. This beautifully written story captures these events through the eyes of a very likable young girl. In her voice, readers share the joys of playing cat's cradle, eating popcorn, and tasting American chewing gum for the first time. Through Tae-yul's they experience his gritty determination to join a kamikaze unit in order to protect his family from the suspicious Japanese. There is food for thought when Sun-hee's father tells her that "they burn the paper-not the words" when referring to the Japanese soldiers who destroy her diary. There have been relatively few stories for young readers that are set in Asia during WWII. Thispowerful and riveting tale of one close-knit, proud Korean family movingly addresses life-and-death issues of courage and collaboration, injustice, and death-defying determination in the face of totalitarian oppression. (afterword, bibliography) (Fiction. 10-15)