Where’s Halmoni?

Where'sHalmoni

Image Credit: Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch Books), Julie Kim

Where’s Halmoni? works on so many fantastic levels. It’s an #ownvoices graphic novel/picture book about two Korean-American siblings and their experience over their grandmother’s house. Simple right?? Nope! Just like the Korean folktales and characters that inspire this work, there’s a delightful mix of fantasy and realism. Kim’s portrayal of everyday Korean life (it’s in the little details) adds another important level of depth to this epic debut.

So let’s start with the story. Details, Details, Details! The story actually begins and ends on the endpages (cool right?). Grandma receives a package from Korea and inside the box is a wooden window she places on the wall of her bedroom. A tiger’s head pop out the window and the next thing we know, Grandma says “Aaah! Bad tiger!” in Korean and the story begins. Joon and his Noona (“누나 older sister” her name is not Noona, it’s what younger boys call older girls in Korean) let themselves into Grandma’s house only to find…that she’s missing!! There are clues to her disappearance though (enormous cat paw prints and a disheveled kitchen) and the kids discover the curious window in her bedroom. In a very Narnia-esque turn of events, they step through the window into a world straight out of Korean folklore. On the search for their grandma, they run into a tricky (and silly) rabbit 토끼, a rowdy and hungry bunch of goblins 도깨비, and finally, an untrustworthy tiger 호랑기 fighting over Grandma’s pot of delicious red bean porridge 팥죽 with a nine-tailed fox 구미호 (who suspiciously looks a bit like grandma)!! How far will they go to find and save their grandma?

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Bee-bim Bop!

Image Credit: Sandpiper: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Linda Sue Park

Image Credit: Sandpiper: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Linda Sue Park/Ho Baek Lee

Linda Sue Park’s sweet, lyrical Bee-bim Bop! follows a family making a traditional Korean dish and is a great story time book. It’s also an excellent cultural book for younger readers (especially toddlers).  Bibimbap is one of the most well known Korean dishes in the United States and this book brings the cooking process to life.

Bibimbap

Two delicious types of bibimbap (비빔밥)

Bee-bim Bop! is close to my heart because it reminds me of my life in Korea; especially when I lived with a host family. The sound of the rice cooker boiling in the kitchen, watching my host mother chop vegetables, and finally sitting down to eat a meal together was one of the best things about my host family life.  Koreans love to spend time together by eating, drinking and talking.

Ho Baek Lee’s bright watercolor illustrations translate the rhythm of the story well. Little ones will enjoy seeing the mischievous dog who just wants some delicious food to eat. At the end of the book, there is even a recipe for families to try to make their own special bibimbap. Park not only creates a delightful story but she also successfully teaches about Korean culture in the simplest way; through food, family and rhythm!

Recommended for: Toddlers and young children
Great for: Story time, Rhythm, Cultural Diversity, Food Culture
Book Info: Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park/Illustrated by Ho Baek Lee, 2005 Sandpaper (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780547076713