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by Jeri Watts

illustrated by Hyewon Yum


From School Library Journal

K-Gr 2—When his family moves from Korea to West Virginia, Hee Jun has a difficult time adjusting. He doesn’t look like the other children, he can’t understand English, and when he tries to speak, the words “feel like stones…in [his] mouth.” Even the sky looks “smaller and darker” than in Korea. His grandmother stays in school each day with his little sister, who is also having a hard time, but Hee Jun must cope on his own. As the months pass, though, brother, sister, and grandmother begin to learn English and Hee Jun slowly transforms from an outsider to an ordinary boy among his classmates. The story comes full circle when Hee Jun brings home a gift from a new friend—a rose of Sharon plant, the English name for the mugunghwa blossoms his grandmother grew in Korea. “‘A piece of heaven,’ she says. ‘A piece of home.'” The young boy’s distress, as well as his grandmother’s, at not fitting in is evident in the large watercolor illustrations. He appears alone in his front yard, slumped over his desk, or frowning as he sits in the center of the classroom. Grandmother changes from the brightly dressed teacher she was in Korea to a bowed woman wearing drab clothing. But the mugunghwa plant, foreshadowed on the title page, brings renewed spirit to them both as they savor a piece of home. This immigration story, paired with Irena Kobald’s My Two Blankets, can offer readers who feel different and alone hope that things will get better, and may encourage others to help them on their way. VERDICT The lengthy text paints a realistic picture of difficulties faced by a family striving to make a new start, and the positive resolution is quietly satisfying. A solid addition for most collections.—Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Greenwich, CT


1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, Ages 5-8, Cultural Differences, Family, Kindergarten, Korean-American, Moving