fiction favorites…SeeSawGirl

SeeSaw Girl, by Linda Sue Park, with illustrations by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng 

Jade Blossom lived in a beautiful house in the middle of Seoul.  Her family was highly respected because her father was an important adviser to the king…
The house was built like a U around the Inner Court.  The women lived in one part… There was the Great Hall for family gatherings and ceremonial days, and the Hall of Learning for the boys’ lessons.  The Garden of Earthly Peace was at the back of the Inner Court.  The Outer Court was surrounded by a wall.  Inside the wall were the servants’ rooms and the stables. Yes, it was a fine house – and it was Jade Blossom’s whole world.
It was the custom for women and girls in noble families to be protected from strange men.  As a little girl Jade had been allowed to play in the Outer Court, feeding grain to the horses or helping the servants gather eggs.  When she reached the age of eight, however, even the Outer Court was forbidden.  Since then Jade had not been allowed to set foot outside the Inner Court…Jade would be allowed to leave her home only twice in the future – to attend Tiger Heart’s wedding at the home of the bride, and finally to move to the home of her husband after her own wedding.

Jade Blossom is a 12-year-old girl living in Korea in the 1600s. At this time, Korean women were not educated, and aristocratic women were not allowed to walk about outside of their homes.  Jade Blossom is a respectful young girl who loves her family and does not want to bring dishonor to them.  Yet she yearns to see the world around her, in particular the mountains which she can just glimpse if she stands in one certain spot in her courtyard.  Her brother, Tiger Heart, attempts to describe the sights and sounds of the marketplace and the majestic solemnity of the mountains, but Jade Blossom longs to find a way to see them herself.  She makes a plan and sets it in action.  Will her plan succeed?  And how could a curious girl like Jade manage to be content after a taste of the world outside the walls? 

Through Jade Blossom’s story, we get a fascinating picture of Korea in this era.  From the intricate embroidery work of the women, to the incredibly time-consuming process of laundering clothes which you truly have to read to believe, to the elaborate preparations of a bride for her wedding day – SeeSaw Girl gives us an incredible peek into the kaleidoscope of this colorful culture. 

Linda Sue Park is an exceptional writer, and one of my favorite authors to emerge in the past 10 years.  The child of Korean immigrants, she has written several books set in Korea, including her Newbery Medal winner, A Silver Shard.  The authentic details in her books, obtained by extensive research, her smooth, clear prose, characters which ring true, well-conceived plots, mean I am always eager to read something with her name on it.  This book will appeal far more to girls with its viewpoint confined by the plot to Jade Blossom’s perspective.  I would highly recommend it for ages 8 and up.  Another of her books, The Kite Fighters, is better suited to boys in this age group.  To find out more about Linda Sue Park, you can visit her web site by clicking on the link:

 http://www.lindasuepark.com/