In the Shadow of the Sun

8 CDs. 8:56 hrs. Jul. 2017. $29.99. Scholastic Audio. ISBN 9781538413791.
Gr 4–6—"Who in their right mind tries to bond with their kids by taking them on a tour of North Korea?'" American aid worker Mark Andrews does when he arrives in Pyongyang with 16-year-old son Simon and 12-year-old daughter Mia. He's convinced "the trip would be an opportunity for Mia to connect with her heritage," despite her having been born in South Korea. When Mark gets arrested—involving a phone loaded with horrific photographs of labor camps—Simon and Mia are forced to flee. The siblings' harrowing odyssey finally mends their difficult relationship as typical-sullen-teenager Simon realizes his "perfectly ordinary, scaredy-cat little sister" just might be "some kind of Spy Girl" who, with her language skills and backpack filled with a map, dictionary, and dried food, might lead them to freedom. Although reader Jackie Chung occasionally stumbles over the Korean words and phrases (appropriately for Mia, not apt for native North Koreans), she fluently modulates her youthful voice to the frustration, fear, and relief of the diverse cast, enhancing the narrative with energy and empathy.
VERDICT O'Brien, who grew up in South Korea and considers it "home," adds much-needed humanity to the proliferating headlines highlighting North Korean threats.

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