BOOKS FOR KEIKI
Orphan pieces new life from shattered pot
By Jolie Jean Cotton
"A SINGLE SHARD" By Linda Sue Park. Dell Yearling paperback, $5.99, ages 10 and up.
Linda Sue Park's skillfully written 2002 Newbery-winning novel, set in 12th-century Korea, has just been released in paperback. Touching on themes of perseverance, survival, hope and family, the story molds together rich, subtle details of Korea's history and gives insight into the meticulous process of creating celadon pottery. It is also an extraordinary story.
"'Eh, Tree-ear! Have you hungered well today?" Crane-man called out as Tree-ear drew near the bridge.
The well-fed of the village greeted each other politely by saying, 'Have you eaten well today?' Tree-ear and his friend turned the greeting inside out for their own little joke.
Twelve-year-old orphan Tree-ear lives with Crane-man under a bridge in the small potters' village of Ch'ul'po. Although they survive on cast-off garbage and grains of rice they forage, Tree-ear seems content until he spies Min, the most talented of the town's potters, crafting exquisite celadon pottery.
Captivated, Tree-ear sneaks to Min's workplace and accidentally destroys a fragile pot. To pay for the damage, Tree-ear works for the potter, eventually turning the work into an apprenticeship and allowing him to learn about the pottery he longs to create.
Park is the first Korean American to win the prestigious Newbery Medal.
Her newest novel for young readers, "When My Name Was Keoko," is set during the 1940s in Japanese-occupied Korea.
"A PLACE TO GROW" by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Marcelino Truong. Arthur A. Levine Books, $16.95, ages 5-9.
T.B. Lam of Honolulu sent this picture book to us. "Maybe you could introduce it to your readers to the benefit of the immigrant community as a whole," Lam writes, "and also particularly to the Korean and Vietnamese communities."
Korean-American author Soyung Pak uses the metaphor of a seed that needs a safe place to grow, in telling the story of an Asian family that emigrates to a new country. As a young Korean girl and her father contentedly work in the beautiful garden of their new home, he explains how seeds need good land, sun and rain to prosper. The images move back and forth between the sunny, vibrant colors of their new home and the gray cities her father has left behind.
Pak writes: "The sun doesn't shine where shadows fall. And sometimes a seed falls in the gloomy shade. It gets left in the dark with no sun to light the way. That is what it is like when there are dreams but not enough hope. A place like that is no place to grow a flower."
Striking illustrations, created with ink and gouache paint, have the feel of folk art. Artist Marcelino Truong lived in the United States and Vietnam before moving to England.
- "The Great Pancake Escape," a rollicking fun read-aloud illustrated by Honolulu's Scott Goto has been named a Los Angeles Times Best Children's Book of 2002.
- Manoa author/illustrator (and sometime reviewer for The Advertiser) James Rumford's latest picture book with Houghton Mifflin was recently reviewed by the New York Times. Reviewer Hilary Simons writes, "James Rumford's 'There's a Monster in the Alphabet,' " adapted from Herodotus' classic account, follows the adventures of the young Phoenician Cadmus, and gives an engaging history of our alphabet as well." Of the illustrations, Simons said, "Rumford has integrated the emerging letters with the characters of his story to stunning effect."
- Honolulu author Pam Calvert's story, "Just My Size," appeared in last month's issue of Highlights for Children magazine. Highlights, for children 2 to 12, has the largest circulation of any children's periodical in the United States.
Jolie Jean Cotton is a Honolulu mom and a writer.