Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Grandmother Is Gone

That we continue to explore our own folklore and the folklore of other cultures is essential.  Not only is it the foundation from which many other forms of literature builds but if we are to understand one another, we need to read and listen to these stories.  In these narratives we discover the richness cultures different from our own offer us.  We discover those things we have in common; those values which transcend those differences.

Most folklore has stories of animals exhibiting particular characteristics.  These animals can deter, challenge, help or inspire the efforts of humans in these tales.  Debut picture book author Julie Kim offers readers a look at characters well-known in Koren literature.  Where's Halmoni? (Little Bigfoot, an imprint of Sasquatch Books, October 3, 2017) takes us on a quest to find a beloved family member.

We are here~

Sister and brother, Noona and Joon, have come to visit their grandmother. Noona is carrying a bag with groceries and Joon is wearing a backpack shaped like the head of a fox.  Halmoni, their grandmother, has disappeared.  So has her red bean soup.  All they can find are a trail of tracks.  When they look for her in her bedroom, Joon locates a slightly open door.

It leads to a vibrant landscape filled with mountains, tall trees, flowers and butterflies.  Readers see, before the siblings, an animal climbing down a rope ladder.  It's a rabbit with a red cloth bundle on its back.  Their inquiries about their grandmother are answered in Koren.  In exchange for some of the snacks Joon has in his backpack, the rabbit gives them a magical back scratcher.  They also believe they need to find a tiger.

When the duo rest in the forest, hungry and tired, they are startled by a group of dokkebi, friendly goblins.  More snacks and drinks are given in trade for an elaborate door handle with its own unique properties.  A glowing opening shows them another path.  Loud roaring has them rushing toward the sound.

A tiger and a nine-tailed white fox are arguing over an item the two identify as their grandmother's soup pot.  Joon runs to the rescue chewing on the tiger's tail.  Noona suggests a more peaceful method, a hearty game of rock-paper-scissors.  Of the four, two are quickly eliminated.  A triumphant winner is tricked but in a twist the trickster is tricked.  A tiger roars for more.  Will Noona and Joon ever get home?  And where is their grandmother?

Limited text in the form of dialogue between the characters written by Julie Kim sets this story in motion and introduces us to everyday customs and respect for family members.  When Noona and Joon encounter the rabbit, the goblins, the tiger and the fox we realize the cleverness of the siblings is no match for the animals.  Evidence of humor is provided in the items given to the children and in their comments to each other especially when they are with the goblins.  Here is a passage.

I think it's thirsty. (Noona)
Of course it is.  It ate ALL our cookies. (Joon)
I think it's REEAAALLY thirsty. (Noona)
And we ARE sitting on it.
Let's get OUT of here Noona, before we lose ALL our snacks!

Upon opening the sturdy paper cover (I am working with an F & G.) on the other side of the door, to the left on the back, Noona and Joon are peeking around the edge.  Their wide-eyed looks and open mouths tell a story as much as the sly look on the tiger's face on the front.  The firm, fluid lines and bright colors here are a wonderful indication of the images to follow.

On the title page the tiger is creeping through the opened doorway in Halmoni's bedroom.  On the verso page Julie Kim gives readers a glimpse of the fantastical realm in the form of light clouds and a bird in flight.  The design and format of the visual aspects of this title are in panels.

Their size alternates between full page pictures, half page illustrations, multiple images on a single page and double page pictures. Sometimes they are framed in thin black lines; other times they span page edge to page edge.  The text may be in speech balloons or for effect written on the illustration.  When a new character appears in the story it is given two pages with a symbolic element, Koren letters, the Koren name and the English name.

What readers will enjoy (what this reader enjoys) are the facial expressions and body language.  There is never a doubt as to the mood of the moment or the emotional status of any given situation.  These, plus the gorgeous settings, bring us all into the story.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  On the left the five colorful goblins with green, red, blue and golden skin wearing patterned and equally colorful clothing are gobbling the treats given to them and pointing for more. Noona is handing out a package of cookies and a juice box.  Joon is pulling out snack after snack from his back pack.  What is charmingly humorous is the stacks of snacks around him look as though they could fit in four back packs instead of just one.

If you have not read Where's Halmoni? written and illustrated by Julie Kim make sure you remedy this as soon as possible.  Then read it aloud to one or more people . . . repeatedly.  I can see this book, a true treasure, being a favorite of listeners.  I highly recommend this for all collections.  At the close of the book, Julie Kim supplies reads with translations of the Koren text and describes the folklore characters and their place in her life.

To discover more about Julie Kim and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At Sasquatch Books you can read small portions of the four starred reviews this title has received plus view the first of nineteen pages.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson reveals the cover on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfastwith some additional artwork.  Teacher librarian Cynthia Alaniz interviews Julie Kim on her blog, Librarian in Cute Shoes.  Julie Kim stops by teacher librarian Matthew Winner's All The Wonders, Episode 396 podcast.  She also visits Let's Talk Picture Books for an interview with lots of artwork.  At This Picture Book Life she appears to give us the red bean soup recipe.  Where's Halmoni? was among the winners of The 2017 Nerdies:  Fiction Picture Books introduced by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.

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