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Gr 4-6-Life in 17th-century Korea is not easy for a girl, even for the daughter of a wealthy family. Jade Blossom must learn to do the laundry, sew the clothes back together after each washing, help in the kitchen, and embroider flawlessly. Her world is circumscribed by the walls of the Inner Court where she will spend her life until she marries and then will be confined to the Inner Court of her husband's household. However, when her aunt and best friend since childhood gets married, Jade is determined to see her again. Park maintains a fine tension between the spirited girl's curiosity and her very limited sphere. Certainly Jade looks for opportunities to expand her horizons, but after her first disastrous foray to see Willow, she learns that those chances have to come within the walls of her own home. The story is full of lively action and vivid descriptions, enhanced by appealing black-and-white paintings, to give a clear sense of the period and reveal the world as Jade sees it. Even the minor characters have substance. The girl's parents are understanding but not indulgent. Her father is a thoughtful man, distant from the family, but looking at the possibilities for the future of his country. Her mother recognizes Jade's longings and shows her that it is possible to be content with her life. Like Jade's stand-up seesaw, Park's novel offers readers a brief but enticing glimpse at another time and place.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This first novel set in 17th-century Korea centers on 12-year-old Jade Blossom, daughter of one of the king's advisers. With all the temerity of a 1990s girl, Jade plays tricks on her brother (with the help of her cousin Willow), and her yearning to see the world outside of her family's walled household ultimately leads her into trouble. She conceals herself in a basket on market day and catches her first glimpse of the mountains as well as a group of imprisoned Dutch sailors, whom she describes as wearing what looks like "yellow or brown sheep's wool on their cheeks and chins." Park manages to get across many of society's restrictions on girls and women, but often relies on telling rather than showing. For example, Jade says how much her view of the mountains affects her, yet she never describes what it is about the vista that moves her. Readers gain little insight into Jade's relationship with other members of her household or her daily routine. Though the novel glosses over the meaning of the Dutch sailors' appearance, a closing author's note helps to put it into context. Fortunately, Jean and Mou-sien Tseng's animated black-and-white drawings fill in many details missing in the text concerning dress and setting. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.