Korean siblings have a rip-roaring adventure, tumbling into a magical land in search of their missing grandmother in this folklore-inspired graphic novel.
A girl and her little brother arrive at their halmoni’s home only to find her mysteriously absent and large paw prints covering the floor. Falling through the doors of a bedding closet into a fantastical wilderness inhabited by classic Korean folk-tale characters, the siblings work together—armed only with a backpack full of snacks, an enchanted back scratcher, a golden door handle, and their plucky wits—to find Halmoni. The children’s dialogue is written in English, while the utterances of the rabbit, goblins, tiger, and nine-tailed fox are given in the Korean alphabet, hangul. Romanized Korean also appears throughout, with an endnote providing translations as well as background about Korean folklore. Kim’s bright, expressive illustrations are a delight, effectively conveying triumph, indignation, surprise, consternation, and more. Hidden clues lurk, adding another layer of intrigue to the plot for observant readers to ponder. Cultural details are seamlessly integrated into the story, such as removing outside shoes to change into slippers indoors and gesturing “come here” in the East Asian manner. Those familiar with the culture will appreciate elements that are not explicitly explained, such as the little boy’s calling his sister “Noona,” the appropriate kinship term for an older female, making this an accessible, diverse title for a broad readership.
An exceptionally charming and well-executed romp that brings to life loving family relationships and an enticing fairy-tale world. (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)