In this historical fiction picture book, Cha (The Professionals, 2014) uses one family’s story to share an overview of Korean immigration to California during the first half of the 20th century.
Doran Pak and her family live on a farm in a small Korean village. Kim’s muted pastel drawings show the family hard at work. As Christian missionaries spread their doctrine throughout the marketplace and advertise the opportunities to be had, a neighbor approaches the family and explains that many Koreans are moving to Hawaii in pursuit of promising farm work. An official order from King Gojong allows Koreans to immigrate to Hawaii for work. Though Cha’s simple explanation allows children to partially understand the immigration movement, the complexity and history behind the king’s ruling is beyond the scope of the story. Regardless, Doran’s family decides to move to Hawaii and eventually California. Initially reluctant to move to America, Doran settles in to her Californian surroundings—bright, minimalist images show her enjoying oranges from the orchard—as her family becomes involved in church and the burgeoning California Korean community. Through the Pak family’s experiences, Cha tells the story of immigrant success in farming and their subsequent ability to support the Korean independence movement. Cha explains, in ways accessible to children, how California Koreans organized in support of Korea against Japanese rule by forming marches and later joining American forces during World War II. The book ends with a historical timeline about prominent Koreans and American missionaries. Text is broken into short paragraphs, but the inclusions of Korean words and historical facts make this a book best read aloud by a caretaker or by a child transitioning to chapter books. The dull typeface could be better integrated with Kim’s soft, simple illustrations, which offer warm ambience. Overall, however, Cha deftly handles relating a complicated history in a way children can begin to comprehend.
A sensitively told educational story of particular interest to caretakers interested in educating children about Korean-American history.