Go to Homepage   Linda Sue Park: When My Name Was Keoko


Crescent Blues Book ViewsClarion Books/ New York (Hardcover), ISBN 0-618-13335-6
In an extremely touching tribute and display of affection, Newbery Medal Winner Linda Sue Park (the Newbery's first Korean winner) stepped down from the podium at the 2002 American Library Association Conference this year and awarded her medal to her father, Eung Won Park. She did this to honor her father for his efforts to instill a love of literature in his children and for sharing stories from his own childhood in Korea.

Book: linda sue park, when my name was keokoMany of those stories come to life vividly in When My Name Was Keoko, a chronicle of one family's experience surviving in Japan-ruled Korea during World War II. Told from the alternating points of view of the two children, young Kim Sun-hee and her older brother Tae-yul, When My Name Was Keoko offers diverse and valuable insights into the Japanese occupation and the war.

During this sad time, the Japanese forced Kim Sun-hee and Tae-yul and their family, as well as all Koreans, to choose new Japanese names and forget the ones they used all their lives. Kim Sun-hee and Tae-yul -- now known as Keoko and Nobuo -- must also adhere to the strict standards imposed upon their people. They cannot speak in their native Korean tongue or write its symbols. They must speak, write and count only in Japanese. Should they fail, beatings and unfathomable punishments will result.

Book: linda sue park, the kite fightersJapan's mistreatment of Koreans causes many problems in Keoko's and Nobou's renamed family. Father appears much too passive to the oppression, and Uncle much too ready to rise up against it. Keoko and Nobuo must remain quiet about their feelings, their Uncle's print shop and his work after hours. They must be suspicious of their friends and their families' sympathies. Not only Japanese and Koreans divide Korea, but a line exists between those Koreans who wish to join forces with or rally against Japan.

This compelling, first-person account spans the years 1940-1945, and sheds light on an aspect of World War II unknown to many Americans. At times disturbing, and yet always endearing and inspiring, When My Name Was Keoko proves an essential read, not only for a classrooms of children ages eight through 12, but for personal reading lists as well. The charming characters, the dire circumstances and startling, but hopeful, resolution will leave readers thinking about this book for a long time to come -- not to mention the generous piece of heart Park put in the book.

Lynne Remick

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