2020 Batchelder Award Honor Book
Korea’s demilitarized zone has become an amazing accidental nature preserve that gives hope for a brighter future for a divided land.
This unique picture book invites young readers into the natural beauty of the DMZ, where salmon, spotted seals, and mountain goats freely follow the seasons and raise their families in this 2.5-mile-wide, 150-mile-long corridor where no human may tread. But the vivid seasonal flora and fauna are framed by ever-present rusty razor wire, warning signs, and locked gatesand regularly interrupted by military exercises that continue decades after a 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War established the DMZ.
Creator Uk-Bae Lee’s lively paintings juxtapose these realities, planting in children the dream of a peaceful world without war and barriers, where separated families meet again and live together happily in harmony with their environment. Lee shows the DMZ through the eyes of a grandfather who returns each year to look out over his beloved former lands, waiting for the day when he can return. In a surprise foldout panorama at the end of the book the grandfather, tired of waiting, dreams of taking his grandson by the hand, flinging back the locked gates, and walking again on the land he loves to find his long-lost friends.
When Spring Comes to the DMZ helps introduce children to the unfinished history of the Korean Peninsula playing out on the nightly news, and may well spark discussions about other walls, from Texas to Gaza.
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About the Author
Uk-Bae Lee was born in Yongin, South Korea, in 1960 and studied art at Hongik Art University. In 1986 he joined a group of artists whose murals, cartoons, and woodcuts represented the voice of the poor. He also held free painting classes for factory workers. Later, inspired to make a book for his own young daughter, he began his career as a children’s book illustrator. In 2010 he published When Spring Comes to the DMZ as a part of the Peace Picture Book Project by illustrators from Korea, China, and Japan. Since then he has often talked to groups of children and parents about how individuals can work for peace. He lives in rural Korea with his wife, who is also a children’s book author, and their children.
Well known in Korea, Uk-Bae Lee is an award-winning illustrator. In 1999, his first picture book, Sori's Harvest Moon Day, was published in English and in 2009 he was invited to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair as a guest of honor. In 2010 his picture book A Tale of Tales was chosen by the International Board on Books for Young People for its IBBY Honour List.