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Explore Korea with Picture Books

Explore Korea with Picture Books

Learn more about the fascinating history and culture of Korea — an ancient country whose history stretches back more than 2,000 years. Since 1945, it has been divided into two sovereign states: North Korea and South Korea. In these picture books, you'll learn facts about Korea from A to Z, discover traditional Korean tales (some of them spun into modern stories), and dip into Korean cooking and the delights of "sijo" poetry. You can also explore immigrant stories from the perspective of children, and find out what it's like to live between two cultures (American and Korean).

A Piece of Home

By: Jeri Watts
Illustrated by: Hyewon Yum
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When Hee Jun’s father accepts a position in West Virginia, everything changes for the boy and his family. His grandmother, a teacher in Korea, now stays at home; his little sister becomes a discipline problem at school; and Hee Jun does not understand English. With time, however, Hee Jun finds a friend whose yard contains a rose of Sharon, a “mugunghwa” in Korea.  It is a piece of home. Gentle illustrations convey the characters’ emotions to enhance the story.

A Single Shard

By: Linda Sue Park
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Tree Ear, a homeless orphan, longs to work as a potter, a respected but competitive employment — especially for a boy who lives under a bridge. Set in 12th century Korea, this Newbery Medal winning novel is as relevant as if it were taking place today. (2002 Newbery Medal Winner)

Archer's Quest

By: Linda Sue Park
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Chu-Mong, legendary leader of ancient Korea, suddenly appears — in the flesh! — in 12-year old Kevin's bedroom in his contemporary Dorcester, New York, home. Humor and tension build as ancient and modern come together in order to get Chu-Mong back to his own time and to take his rightful place in history.

Bee-Bim Bop!

By: Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by: Ho Baek Lee
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

What's better than just eating a favorite dish? Anticipating it while preparing it, of course! Rhythmic, rhyming language and playful illustrations capture the joy of making this special Korean dish — and the joy of sharing it.
Country of origin: Korea
 

Dear Juno

By: Soyoung Pak
Illustrated by: Susan Kathleen Hartung
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Juno can barely wait to open the letter that has arrived from his grandmother in Seoul, but he needs his parents to read it since it's written in Korean! Finally he decides he can wait no longer and he finds inside a leaf and a photo of a cat. Juno responds by drawing pictures for his grandmother, and when she sends him a pack of colored pencils, he knows she would like more of his letters. This quiet, beautiful story celebrates the joy of exchanging letters with a loved one and the importance of maintaining strong family ties no matter the distance.

Firekeeper's Son

By: Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by: Julie Downing
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Sang-Hee's father cannot send the signal that no enemies are in sight, Sang-Hee must get the coals to light the fire on the mountaintop. Based on an actual signal system used in 19th century Korea, illustrations and fluid text create a riveting story that enlivens history. An author's note provides more detail. Watch Park read an excerpt in our Meet the Author interview with her!

K Is for Korea

By: Hyechong Cheung
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In this photographic alphabet, the author introduces young readers to some of the customs, religion and culture, both ancient and modern, that make up this high-profile country. Focusing on both city and country life – from Arirang to Lacquerware to Taekwondo – this is a celebration of Korea in all its colourful diversity.

Kite Fighters

By: Linda Sue Park
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

It takes great skill to be a kite fighter as Kee-sup and Young-sup know well. The brothers have different talents; the older boy makes kites easily while Young-sup flies them with a sure hand. Loyalty, tradition and rivalry between the boys are themes in this riveting novel set in 15th century Korea.

Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea

By: Anne O'Brien
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a carefully researched retelling of a Korean legend, the son of a powerful minister and a servant is scorned by high society because of his commoner roots. After leaving home and discovering that injustice drives criminals to crime, he begins training a group of bandits to become an army that rights wrongs. With artwork authentic to the historical time, this is a drama for sophisticated readers.

Living in South Korea

By: Chloe Perkins
Illustrated by: Tom Woolley
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Discover what it’s like to grow up in South Korea. "Annyeonghaseyo! My name is Min-jun, and I’m a kid just like you living in South Korea. South Korea is a country filled with amazing cities and cutting-edge technology. Have you ever wondered what South Korea is like? Come along with me to find out!" Learn about the history, geography and culture of South Korea in this book, part of the "Living in ..." series and filled with illustrations.

My Freedom Trip

By: Ginger Park, Frances Park
Illustrated by: Leonard Jenkins
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

To escape the coming conflict, young Soo leaves North Korea without her mother. Though her mother plans to join Soo and her father, the Korean War begins and Soo has only memories of her mother’s bravery. Darkly hued illustrations combine with the lyrical narrative in this story based on the authors’ own family.

My Name Is Yoon

By: Helen Recorvits
Illustrated by: Gabi Swiatkowska
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Yoon narrates the difficulty she experiences when her family moves to the United States from Korea. Her struggle with the transition focuses on the moment when she must learn to write her name in English rather than in Korean, and she remains resistant to learning a new language. Her imaginative voice is child-like and plausible, augmented by inventive illustrations.

New Clothes for New Year's Day

By: Hyun-Joo Bae
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A little girl gets ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year in this gentle and stunningly illustrated book first published in South Korea. Excitement mounts as she details how she dresses for this engaging celebration with universal appeal.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

By: Paula Yoo
Illustrated by: Dom Lee
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

As an Asian American child growing up in California, Sammy Lee was only allowed to use the public pool on Wednesdays. But Sammy was not easily deterred from his dream of becoming an Olympic diver, and at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, he became the first Asian American to win a gold medal in U.S. history. Paula Yoo and Dom Lee skillfully bring Sammy's story to life in this inspirational biography.

Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo

By: Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by: Istvan Banyai
Genre: Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Like haiku, sijo – a little known, brief poetic form from Korea – looks at everyday activities from breakfast to the weather. Sophisticated illustrations complement the seemingly simple language to delight readers and listeners.

The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale

By: Yumi Heo
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Have you wondered why frogs croak on the edge of streams? It all started long ago with two disobedient frog brothers who decided to obey their long-suffering mother only after her death. Humor and grimness combine for a memorable Korean pourquoi tale.
Country of origin: Korea
 

The Name Jar

By: Yangsook Choi
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

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.

The Trip Back Home

By: Janet Wong
Illustrated by: Bo Jia
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Based on the author's experience, a child visits the village in Korea where her mother lived before immigrating to America. The simplicity of the text provides rich details of everyday life in the small Korean village, enhanced by realistic illustrations.

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