Chuseok 2015

This weekend marks the Korean holiday of Chuseok, a traditional harvest festival. As most of you probably already know, the date of the holiday follows the lunar calendar so the holiday falls on a different date on the Gregorian calendar. This year the Chuseok holiday is Sept. 27.

My husband is traveling for work on Chuseok, so our family celebrated a week early with a homemade Korean meal. Likely the little guy and I will play yut nori and eat Korean again on the actual date of Chuseok.

If you’re wondering what to cook for the holiday, here are a couple of ideas from Korean Bapsang. The Galbijjim recipe can even be prepared in the slow cooker for added convenience. According to Hyosun, the owner of Korean Bapsang, both of these dishes are traditional ones to prepare for Chuseok. My family can personally recommend both. Yum!

In Korea, Chuseok is about spending time with family and honoring ancestors. I highlighted ways to incorporate honoring ancestors in my 2011 Chuseok post. But I thought I’d add another suggestioKoreanChildren'sFavoriteStoriesn for families celebrating Chuseok.

Tuttle Publishing offers several books covering Korean culture or language. Their book, Korean Children’s Favorite Stories by Kim So-Un, is an English-language book filled with folk tales that have been told by Korean families for generations. Some of the stories are unique to Korea, while the plot line of some will be familiar. The illustrations by Jeong Kyoung-Sim are wonderfully done in a Korean style that resembles paintings done on ancient Korean screens.

This book would be a wonderful addition to a family’s library and a fun way to share Korean culture with your children.


Book Review: Korean Folk Songs

KoreanFolkSongsI knew it had been awhile since I’d blogged, but I was amazed to see that my last entry was exactly a year ago today. As much as I love doing this blog, life has certainly gotten in the way of blogging.

But today I’m happy to bring you a review of a wonderful book that would make a great resource for Korean adoptive families, or anyone who wants their child to learn the Korean language.

The book is “Korean Folk Songs: Stars in the Sky and Dreams in Our Hearts” by Robert Sang-ung Choi. The book features 14 Korean folk songs and includes everything you need to learn the songs, including a CD with the songs presented in two versions, one that is sung and another that has no words so you can sing along.

For each song, the book contains a short description of the song and its history. Then the music is included with words in hangul, romanized Korean, and English. And since many Korean songs have hand and/or body movements to go with them, a description of the actions that should accompany the song is listed as well.

Some of the songs, like Santokki (Mountain Rabbit) and Gom Semari (Three Bears Song) were familiar to our family. But there are several others that are new to us. As a baby my son would have loved the Jjak Jjak Ggung (Clap, Clap, Clap) song, since that was one of the games he was playing in Korean when he came home. Korea’s most popular folk song–Arirang–is included as well.

All of the songs are steeped in the Korean culture and are likely songs our children adopted from Korea heard during the months or years spent in their birth country. The illustrations by Samee Back are beautiful and represent the folksy, cultural aspect of the book well.

I would highly recommend the book for any family that is learning the Korean language (learning by song is sometimes the easiest way to learn), and especially for adoptive families with Korean-born kiddos. My 9-year-old enjoyed listening to the CD and looking at the illustrations.

Here is a link to the Amazon listing for the book.

(Note: Tuttle Publishing provided me with a review copy of the book.)

The Best Winds

Laura E. Williams perfectly captures the generation divide in this picture book titled The Best Winds.

Jinho isn’t at all interest in his grandfather’s stories or old ways. And when his parents make Jinho work on a kite with his grandfather, he’s sure it’s the biggest waste of time. But once the kite is finished, Jinho is excited to fly it and show off for his friends. Sadly since he hasn’t listened to Grandfather’s stories, instead of impressively flying the kite, Jinho can’t control it and the kite rips when it crashes to the ground. Seeing his grandfather’s sadness over the kite, Jinho stays up all night fixing it and through the experience finds a connection with his grandfather.

I really enjoyed this story and loved the illustrations by Eujin Kim Neilan. It’s the perfect story to read before making a kite.

Good Enough by Paula Yoo

In case you haven’t noticed, I love children’s literature. Picture books, chapter books, doesn’t matter, I love them. My most recent read in this category is Good Enough by Paula Yoo, and I must say I loved it.

Yes, it’s about a Korean American high school senior named Patti Yoon. Patti details her struggles with boys, not disappointing her parents, the pressure on her to get into Ivy League schools, and her love of music. You’d think a 40-year-old wouldn’t relate much to such a book, but that teen I was many years ago is still inside somewhere and she related to Patti, at least on some level.

The writing is so good that it brings Patti and her world to life. You cheer her on when she faces racism and hope against hope that she’ll get the guy. It’s just a good read.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

I love finding new books about Korea or Korean Americans to share with our son. And since our little guy is into sports, I was really excited when I recently learned about this book.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo recounts the story of Sammy Lee, the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal. Lee accomplished this at the London games in 1948 after becoming a doctor, while serving with the military, and despite facing discrimination. Lee was 28 years old when he won his gold medal, which he defended four years later at the 1952 games in Helsinki, Finland.

Lee’s diving dream began when he was 12 and growing up in California. But his training was limited since, as a person of color, he could only use the local pools one day a week. Lee continued to face discrimination throughout his life, but refused to let it hinder him. He became a medical doctor, as his father has dreamed he would, then went on to accomplish his own goal of diving in the Olympics.

It’s such a great story and the book is beautifully illustrated by Dom Lee. I found it at our local library but I definitely think it’s once I’ll be adding to our collection.

The author’s web site lists this one as being for kids ages 6-9. The hardcover edition was published in 2005, but the paperback edition was just released last year.

The Inspector O Series by James Church

So if you haven’t noticed already, I LOVE to read. Many people told me once you become a mom there’s not time for books. Well, at least for me, that’s not true; although often I only get to read for a few months right before falling asleep. Still, it’s something. When I got my Nook last fall, I did random searches on it for “Korea” and these books are just some of the many that came up.

The Inspector O Series by James Church follows North Korean Inspector O, who works in Pyongyang at the Ministry of People’s Security. They are fiction, of course, and fall under the mystery genre, which is one of my favorites. I’ve read the first two books in the series so are, which are A Corpse in the Koryo and Hidden Moon. O is a lovable character, and while the plots are complicated, there is humor spread throughout as well.

I’ve really enjoyed the series so far and I’m looking forward to the next two books. So if you enjoy mysteries, I’d recommend Inspector O.

New Clothes for New Year’s Day

Here’s another book to use in your Seolnal celebration. It’s New Clothes for New Year’s Day by Hyun-Joo Bae.

This adorable book is about a little girl who is excited about the new hanbok she’s getting for the Seolnal celebration. The illustrations are beautiful, and are wonderful in telling the story of this little girl as she puts on each piece of her hanbok.

At the end of the book, the author includes two reference pages explaining more about Seolnal, the hanbok, and the significance of the new clothes for the holiday.

My only complaint, really, is that I can no longer find the boys’ version of this book. The boys’ version hasn’t, to my knowledge, been translated into English. But Korean would be fine, if only I could find it again. If anyone sees it, please let me know.

This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong

New Year’s comes twice in our house. There is the calendar new year, celebrated on Jan. 1; then comes the next new year, aka seolnal, lunar new year, or Korean New Year.

Since most Americans think of this holiday as “Chinese” new year, it’s hard to find books that show the Korean celebration of seolnal. So finding This Next New Year by Janet Wong was an exciting day for me. (Sounds pathetic, but hey, I love books!)

In this book, the main character is Chinese-Korean American and he tells all about how his family, and the family of his friends, celebrate the lunar new year. Those celebrations include Korean new year’s soup, cleaning the house, righting wrongs, and being especially good that day.

The illustrations by Yangsook Choi are beautiful and fun, and help convey the story in a wonderful way. This one is a must-read with the holiday coming up, and a keeper for families who incorporate lunar new year traditions into their families.

Dumpling Soup

With the new year approaching, I thought I’d share a great book about the New Year’s celebration of a very multicultural family. It’s Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan.

The story centers on Marisa, whose family lives in Hawaii. The family culture, however, is a mixture of Korean, Chinese, Anglo, Japanese, and Hawaiian. Korean mandu soup plays an important role in this story, and you’ll run across a few Korean words throughout.

I love the family’s mixed ethnicities and how they all come together to bring in the new year. I love all of the shoes on the front steps and how the girls use them to play. But most of all, I love how this story is about passing down traditions, which I think is a really important thing about family.

The story is based on the author’s childhood New Year’s experiences, which I also think is cool. This is a great book to include as part of your New Year holiday tradition.

Here’s a link to the author’s Web site and some of her comments about the book:

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten

Since lots of families have the tradition of reading a Christmas book each day of the holiday season, I thought I’d recommend one with a Korean twist.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits continues the story of Yoon, a Korean immigrant that began in My Name is Yoon. In the Christmas Mitten, Yoon learns about the traditions of the Christmas holiday while at school from her teacher and fellow students. As the holiday approaches, Yoon becomes more excited about the possibilities it holds. But her father won’t hear of the holiday. Finally a compromise is reached between the two and Yoon finds the holiday to be an enjoyable one, even if the celebration is somewhat unique.

We’ve read the book the last two years and love it. I hope your family enjoys it too.