“What did you like about the book?” I asked my eleven year old son about When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park.
I’m enjoying this season in life. My son is older and now reading books that I find interesting. He doesn’t like discussing them with me still, but he will give me his opinion.
A month ago, or so, I took my son to Taipei American School to listen to Linda Sue Park. After listening to her that evening, I wrote a post about the importance in telling family stories to our children. One of the books that she talked about that night was When My Name was Keoko. Both of us like WWII, so we both couldn’t wait to check that one out from the library.
I thought this was a great book for upper elementary and middle school TCKs. I believe that they could relate in someways, especially if they are South Korean.
1. The characters are TCKs: The events of WWII were from the point of view of Sun-yee and Tai-yul, a Korean sister and brother. The children at this time were really more like TCKs in their own home country. The Japanese occupied Korea and tried to replace the Korean culture with Japanese culture. One of the ways was by changing everyone’s names to Japanese names. So, Sun-yee became Keoko; and Tai-yul became Nobuo. Throughout the story you see the family struggle to hang onto their Korean culture by trying to teach the children what it means to be Korean.
2. Language is important: Korean was forbidden to be used during this time. All classes were conducted in Japanese. No one was to speak or write in Korean. Because of this, the Korean language was almost lost. We see that Sun-yee’s father saw the relationship between culture and language, so he secretly taught her the Korean alphabet.
3. To see the human-being: What I mean is not being judgmental towards other nationalities. Sun-yee’s good friend until she got older was the Japanese neighbor boy. She doesn’t see in her friend what everyone says and calls the Japanese. She is confused by this. When she is older, she does become friends with the Korean girls, but she never has harsh feelings about her neighbor. In fact, they help each other out at different times.
My son’s opinion about the book? He told me that he really liked reading about the Asian side of WWII and that he really liked the ending.
Your Turn: Have you read this book? What did you find in it that your TCK could relate to? Please comment below.