June 19, 2018

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The Turtle Ship by Helena Ku | SLJ Review

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redstarRHEE, Helena Ku. The Turtle Ship. illus. by Colleen Kong-Savage. 32p. Lee & Low/Shen’s Bks. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781885008909.

PreS-Gr 2 –Rhee tells the legend of Sun-sin and his best friend, a turtle named Gobugi, and how they came to invent the Turtle Ship. After hearing that the Emperor is holding a contest for the best battleship design, Sun-sin presents Gobugi as inspiration for a great vessel, having witnessed the turtle’s smart physical design. At first the Emperor rejects the idea, but after seeing Gobugi survive an encounter with a cat, he declares Sun-sin the winner, making history. The plot is loosely based on a true story, but reads like a delightful folktale that skillfully incorporates moral lessons about strength and appearances. The vocabulary is simple enough for the audience, and the text is well formatted on the page. There is one battle scene, though nothing too heavy or graphic is depicted. Kong-Savage’s collage illustrations bring the story to life through almost 3-D imagery and are beautiful to look at. The use of muted colors to depict the home of Sun-sin contrasts nicely with the brighter colors of the Emperor’s palace, creating an excellent source of tension. The illustrators and the narrative work together wonderfully to tell this fascinating episode in Korean naval history. VERDICT A great mix of myth and history for most picture book collections.–Margaret Kennelly, iSchool at ­Urbana-Champaign, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2018 issue.

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