Where's Halmoni?

Where's Halmoni? illus. by Julie Kim. 96p. Little Bigfoot. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781632170774.
RedReviewStarK-Gr 2—In this fun adventure story inspired by Korean folktales, young Noona and her little brother Joon step into a fantastical land to find their missing Halmoni ("grandmother"). Their journey partitions into three sections, each highlighting lovable or distrusted figures from traditional stories who help or hinder the kids as they search. Where's Halmoni? has all the thrills, laughs, and morals that you could want from a good folktale for kids, but among Western libraries, you will actually find very little like it. Not only does it feature an Asian culture and characters, this title makes several distinctive design choices, as well. One example is Kim's combination of modern and traditional Korean art styles; characters, with their less complicated and more expressive designs, both complement and distinguish themselves from the stunningly painted classic backgrounds. Another is the use of language—while the humans speak in English, creatures from the mythical world respond in Korean. Context makes clear what is being said for those who can't read it; a pictorial chart in the back also provides a translation. One key line does include a transliteration. Many of the written and visual details (such as the hand signal for "come here"), could be used to promote discussion.
VERDICT For its jaw-dropping art, encouraging bilingual attitude, and conscientious portrayal of Korean culture, Where's Halmoni? is a perfect choice for most collections.

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