BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park + Author Profile [in Bloomsbury Review]

When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko is the first title for young audiences to deal with the Japanese occupation of Korea during the first half of the 20th century, a torturous part of history about which few outside of Korea are even aware. In calm, simple language, Newbery Medal-winning Linda Sue Park captures a difficult story that spans the last years of the Japanese occupation, during which Korean language, culture, and traditions were literally banned.

Told in the alternating voices of Kim Sun-hee, who is 10 years old in 1940, and Kim Tae-yul, her brother who is 13, the novel captures five years of Japanese brutality countered by Korean patriotism. The author’s note at book’s end is a valuable historical supplement.

Repeating Forbidden Words: A Profile of Linda Sue Park, Winner of the Newbery Medal
When Linda Sue Park first received the call early this year announcing that she had won the top honor in children’s literature – the coveted 2002 Newbery Medal for A Single Shard – her immediate reaction was disbelief. “I had to ask the woman to repeat what she had said a couple of times before I could believe I had won,” Park recalls with a laugh.

The winning title, about a young orphan boy in 13th-century Korea who becomes the apprentice to an acerbic master potter, is Park’s third book for middle-schoolers. Her first, published in 1999, is Seesaw Girl, about an aristocratic girl growing up in 17th-century Korea. Her second, published in 2000, is The Kite Fighters, about two brothers in 15th-century Korea who compete in the New Year kite competition secretly representing the boy-king. When Park won the Newbery, she became the first Korean American, and only the second Asian American, to win the award; Dhan Gopal Mukerji won for Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon in 1928.

Less than two months after receiving the Newbery, Park’s follow-up, When My Name Was Keoko, debuted in March. “Having Keoko finished long before the Newbery was announced was a tremendous relief,” says Park. While Park’s other titles are all historical novels based in Korea, Keoko is a departure from her earlier, noncontroversial works. …[click here for more]

Author Profile: The Bloomsbury Review, November/December 2002

TidbitLinda Sue Park was a much lauded guest for the Smithsonian’s Korean American Centennial Commemoration‘s fall program, “Children’s Books,” on September 13, 2003.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2002


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