Brother’s Keeper

Holiday House. Jun. 2020. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823444946.
Gr 3-7–A harrowing, heartbreaking tale of hope, love, and survival against insurmountable odds. Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under the oppressive North Korean communist regime of 1950. As the South Korean army begins to lose ground to the Red Army, hope of liberation dwindles. Sora’s stubborn, overbearing mother believes the family should keep their heads down and obey the law. But her father knows that their family’s nonconformist political and religious beliefs mean they will never be safe, and convinces the family to flee south to Busan where his brother lives. Whip-smart Sora hopes that Busan will provide freedom from her mother’s restrictive expectations of her as a woman and enable her to return to school. The family embarks upon the long journey by foot, but are separated in a sudden aerial bombardment. Sora and her eight-year-old brother Youngsoo must now attempt to complete the journey alone in hopes of reuniting with their family. They face threats at every turn—the elements, other people, lack of resources, and illness—but their strength carries them even as Youngsoo becomes ill. With an artful and expressive narrative voice, and inspiration drawn from her mother’s experiences in Korea as a young woman, debut novelist Lee enthralls and enlightens.
VERDICT A surefire recommendation all around, this title will be of particular interest to readers seeking excellent historical fiction, survival stories, family drama, or a good tearjerker. Librarians and teachers should be aware that a character suffers a protracted illness and then dies from pneumonia.

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