March 29, 2016

Reading Together: Family Exploration Book Club - The Korea Link-Up

For the RTFEBC this month we read two books - both by Linda Sue Park! In The Firekeeper's Son, young Sang-hee must carry on the tradition of lighting the signal fire, in order for word to pass along the chain of hilltop fires, letting the king know that all is well. Eleanor and I read this one, and she liked it, although she wasn't totally thrilled about it. She thought it was pretty cool that a kid got to light a fire though!

The illustrations are really beautiful, and the relationship between Sang-hee and his father is sweet.

The other book was The Kite Fighters. It tells the story of two brothers, Young-sup and Kee-sup, who are part of a traditional 15th century Korean family. Young-sup has an especial gift for kite flying - he just senses exactly when and how to fly a kite. Kee-sup can't fly as well as Young-sup, but he's gifted at the artistry of making kites. Between them the brothers make and fly the most beautiful kites in the country, which comes to the attention of the King. He asks them to make and fly a kite for him in the New Year kite competition. They plan to have Kee-sup make the kite, and Young-sup fly it, but then their father forbids it. Because Kee-sup is the oldest, Confucian tradition dictates that Kee-sup must represent the family.

Young-sup is angry that yet again Kee-sup gets more privileges than he does, and Kee-sup is dismayed, because he knows he can't fly a kite as well as Young-sup, and he doesn't want to upset the King.

The way the brothers work out their dilemma, without breaking tradition or disappointing their King is sweet. They discover that they've each been jealous of the other for different reasons, and make up nicely. They also cleverly make up a new kite-flying technique in order to try to guarantee a win for the King.

I really enjoyed The Kite Fighters, although I couldn't get Eleanor interested in it. I'm not sure if it was because of the male protagonists, or because of the historical details, but she lost interest quickly.

I was fascinated by the Korean culture of the era though - women weren't allowed to leave the house at all! Young-sup and Kee-sup's mother oversaw the household, and the ordering of supplies, but she had to send a male servant to the market to do the shopping, because women weren't allowed to handle money. I just can't even imagine being stuck in my house all day like that. I'd go crazy in about 4 days.

Did you read The Kite Fighters or The Firekeeper's Son? Be sure to link-up below (this could be a link to your blog post, or your Goodreads review). Or just share in the comments! And be sure to check out more posts about these books at The Deliberate Reader and Hearth and Homefront.