One of the most famous kings in Korean history is King Sejong (more about him tomorrow). And probably his most famous accomplishment was commissioning the development of a purely Korean alphabet, which would allow more people to be literate.
The King’s Secret: The Legend of King Sejong by Carol Farley is a great book that introduces the story of King Sejong and the alphabet to young readers. The illustrations in this picture book are vibrant in color and I feel realistic in their representation of the Korean people. It’s really a beautiful book.
One criticism I’ve heard of this book is that it wasn’t written by a Korean author. While that’s true, the author has lived in Seoul so she is familiar with Korean history and culture. The author information on the dust jacket of this book says that Farley fell in love with this story after first reading it in Tales of a Korean Grandmother by Frances Carpenter and longed to retell it in a book for children.
Farley says in “A Note from the Author” that some of the people and events in this story were inspired by legend and her imagination, but much of the story is based on truth. The author’s note goes on to tell more about the facts of King Sejong and the creation of hangul. Then the last page of the shows the modern hangul symbols and lists how they are pronounced.
Despite its lack of Korean authorship, I would recommend this one for your personal library.