September 19, 2018

Rice from Heaven by Tina Cho, illustrated by Keum Jin Song

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:04 am by suebe2

Rice from Heaven
by Tina Cho
illustrated by Keum Jin Song
Little Bee Books

A little girl and her father travel to the South Korean countryside.  All around them are rice fields but they are here because across the border, in North Korea, children are going hungry. Because the North Korean government does nothing to help its own people, people in South Korea work to send rice across the border.

They do it by sending the rice up into the night sky on special hot air balloons.

As they are working, villagers come to watch.  Many are not happy that these people are helping the enemy.  One boy gets in the little girl’s face and yells at her.  She answers him that the has to help.  The children in the north are eating tree bark and grass.

This stops the boy.  How can he hate children who are starving? He wants to help.

Two hundred balloons are sent up into the night sky.  How many reach the North?  No one knows but they know that they have to try.

I have to admit – I wanted to know that they helped people.  I wanted a concrete ending.

But Tina Cho respected her readers and gave them the unvarnished facts.  She helped with this mission but cannot name anyone who helped.  She doesn’t want to risk retaliation from the North Korean government.  The author has also included back matter about the historical and political situation as well as the effort to float rice across the border.

Keum Jin Song’s art work is colorful and detailed, bringing the story to life.  That said, the scenes of the North are handled in such way to keep them from overpowering young readers.  Flat colorless landscapes take the place of specific details of deprivation.  It is clear by the art work that the North is empty and void, the South vibrant and full of life.

This isn’t an easy story but it is a story that needs to be told.  Written as a picture book, it is probably better suited to slightly older readers such as 2nd and 3rd graders who will still need to hear about efforts to help those who have little.

–SueBE

 

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