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by Linda Sue Park

illustrated by Julie Downing


School Library Journal:

PreS-Gr 3 –Park’s command of place, characterization, and language is as capable and compelling in this picture book  as it is in her novels. Set in 19th-century Korea, this story centers around an actual bonfire signal system. Every night, when Sang-hee’s father sees that the ocean is clear of enemies, he climbs the mountain to light his fire, setting in motion a chain reaction of blazes that eventually reaches the peak closest to the palace and assures the king that all is well in the land. When Father breaks his ankle, his son must ascend alone into the darkness with a bucket of burning coals. During a dramatic pause, he contemplates the consequences of inaction and his secret desire to see the king’s soldiers. Lyrical prose and deftly realized watercolors and pastels conjure up the troops in a vision linked to the glowing coal clasped in the boy’s tongs. In the next scene, a close-up of the last coal illuminates Sang-hee’s eyes, his face a study of concentration. Upon the child’s descent, his father shares the memory of his own youthful desires and his pride in his son’s accomplishment. A sense of inherited mission pervades the conclusion as Sang-hee learns that he, too, is “part of the king’s guard.” Children will be intrigued by this early form of wireless communication, caught up in the riveting dilemma, and satisfied by the resolution.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library –Wendy Lukehart (Reviewed May 1, 2004) (School Library Journal, vol 50, issue 5, p121)


  • Asian  Pacific American Award for Literature: Picture Book


1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, Historical Fiction, Pre-Kindergarten