Favorite list: Korean themed children's books
My Name Is Yoon (Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award, 2004) by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska.
Getting to feel at home in a new country
Yoon’s name means Shining Wisdom, and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn’t sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names – maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE!
Helen Recorvits’s spare and inspiring story about a little girl finding her place in a new country is given luminous pictures filled with surprising vistas and dreamscapes by Gabi Swiatkowska.
My Name Is Yoon is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale by Yumi Heo
Like most rebellious children, the green frogs in this Korean folktale love to disobey their mother. What-ever she asks them to do, they do the opposite . . . until their bad habit lands them in trouble.
The Name Jar, written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi
The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she?
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.
Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee
A wonderful paperback picture book about the joys of family and food, from Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park.
Bee-bim bop ("mix-mix rice") is a traditional Korean dish. In bouncy rhyming text, a hungry child tells of helping her mother make bee-bim bop: shopping, preparing ingredients, setting the table, and sitting down to enjoy a favorite meal. The enthusiasm of the narrartor is conveyed in the whimsical illustrations, which bring details from the artist’s childhood in Korea to his depiction of a modern Korean-American family. The book includes Linda Sue’s own bee-bim bop recipe!
For older children/chapter books
Peacebound Trains by Haemi Balgassi, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet
While her mother is in the army, Sumi is living with her grandmother, on East Blossom Hill. Perched on her favorite rock, Sumi watches trains wind through the valley below, hears the lonely sound of their whistles piercing the air, and longs for the day her mother will return. The train whistle reminds Sumi's grandmother of a time when a train played an important role in her life too: long ago in Korea, when she and her family escaped Seoul at the last moment before the war came. In poetic language and exquisite paintings, PEACEBOUND TRAINS evokes the landscape and people of Korea and a special grandmother-granddaughter relationship.
Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Mou-Sien Tseng and Jean Tseng
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.
The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park
In a riveting narrative set in fifteenth-century Korea, two brothers discover a shared passion for kites. Kee-sup can craft a kite unequaled in strength and beauty, but his younger brother, Young-sup, can fly a kite as if he controlled the wind itself. Their combined skills attract the notice of Korea's young king, who chooses Young-sup to fly the royal kite in the New Year kite-flying competition--an honor that is also an awesome responsibility. Although tradition decrees, and the boys' father insists, that the older brother represent the family, both brothers know that this time the family's honor is best left in Young-sup's hands. This touching and suspenseful story, filled with the authentic detail and flavor of traditional Korean kite fighting, brings a remarkable setting vividly to life.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters' village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.
(All book summaries from publishers.)