When You Trap a Tiger

by Tae Keller

School Library Journal Gr 4–7—Lily has always loved her halmoni's stories; Korean folktales that begin, "long, long ago, when tiger walked like a man." But Lily never expected to encounter the fierce magical tiger in her sick grandmother's basement, or to strike a deal to heal Halmoni by releasing the powerful stories she stole as a young woman. Keller illuminates Lily's desperation to heal Halmoni and bring her family together through the tiger stories interspersed throughout the book; stories of heroism and self-sacrifice, of sisterhood and bravery. Yet the book's greatest strength is in its complex human characters, from Halmoni whose traumatic immigration story spurs her to unite her community through kindness and herbal remedies, to Lily's prickly older sister Sam, whose grief and fear stirred up by Halmoni's illness exists alongside a budding romance with a new girlfriend. Lily worries about her invisibility and living up to the "quiet Asian girl" stereotype she hates, but she doesn't know how else to cope with her volatile teenage sister or her mother's need to pretend that everything is okay, despite the weight of family trauma past and present. Keller weaves ancient folklore with Korean history through contemporary magical realism. She calls on the power of stories to bring families and communities together and the ability to heal by speaking to their pasts. VERDICT This deeply moving book is a must-purchase for all collections, showcasing vulnerable and mythic storytelling in the vein of Erin Entrada Kelly and Kacen Callender.—Molly Saunders, Manatee County Public Libraries, Bradenton, FL

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list If stories were written in the stars and guarded by tigers, this wondrous tale would be one of the brightest. Lily is happy when she; her mom; and sister, Sam, move, because it means they will spend more time with their grandmother, their halmoni, whose life is full of magic. Halmoni has always told beautiful stories about clever sisters and equally clever tigers not to be trusted but Lily soon finds that life is not how she expected it to be. Sam isn't so happy about the move, and worse, Halmoni is very sick, so when a tiger appears to Lily, offering her a deal, she thinks it could be what saves her grandmother. Lily's magic-realist world, rooted in Korean folklore, will envelop readers as she deals with growing up (and, at times, apart from her sister), finding new friends, and coping with her grandmother's illness. Keller's characters from Halmoni, who dresses up to go grocery shopping, to Sam, who hides her own heartbreaks will have readers wishing they were real. Every chapter is filled with a richness and magic that demands every word be treasured, a heartfelt reminder of the wonder and beauty in our everyday lives. Readers young and old will want to trap this story in a jar forever.--Selenia Paz Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Making deals with talking tigers was the one thing that biracial Lily’s glamorous Korean grandmother, Halmoni, warned her never to do. Yet when Halmoni falls ill, a magical tiger offers Lily an ultimatum: recover the stories that Halmoni stole years ago, or lose her forever. Keller weaves Korean folk tradition with warm scenes of Korean-American domesticity—preparing food for ancestral spirits, late night snacking on kimchi. The result is a story that seamlessly transitions from the mundane to the magical, never jarring when Lily’s contemporary America is sporadically replaced with a mythical land of sky gods and tiger girls. Beyond the magical elements, a diverse cast of characters populate Lily’s world—her sullen older sister, Sam; her widowed mother; the kind library staff; and Ricky, a new friend with more than one family secret. While the pacing is slow, the characters’ development feels authentic and well drawn. Keller’s (The Science of Breakable Things) #OwnVoices journey through Korean mythology begins with a fantastical quest and slowly transforms into a tale about letting go and the immortality that story can allow. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family's past and the strength of her own voice.For many years, Lily's Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly white community. When Lily, her sister, Samboth biracial, Korean and whiteand their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn't mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.Longingfor connection, for family, for a voiceroars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 4–7—Lily has always loved her halmoni's stories; Korean folktales that begin, "long, long ago, when tiger walked like a man." But Lily never expected to encounter the fierce magical tiger in her sick grandmother's basement, or to strike a deal to heal Halmoni by releasing the powerful stories she stole as a young woman. Keller illuminates Lily's desperation to heal Halmoni and bring her family together through the tiger stories interspersed throughout the book; stories of heroism and self-sacrifice, of sisterhood and bravery. Yet the book's greatest strength is in its complex human characters, from Halmoni whose traumatic immigration story spurs her to unite her community through kindness and herbal remedies, to Lily's prickly older sister Sam, whose grief and fear stirred up by Halmoni's illness exists alongside a budding romance with a new girlfriend. Lily worries about her invisibility and living up to the "quiet Asian girl" stereotype she hates, but she doesn't know how else to cope with her volatile teenage sister or her mother's need to pretend that everything is okay, despite the weight of family trauma past and present. Keller weaves ancient folklore with Korean history through contemporary magical realism. She calls on the power of stories to bring families and communities together and the ability to heal by speaking to their pasts. VERDICT This deeply moving book is a must-purchase for all collections, showcasing vulnerable and mythic storytelling in the vein of Erin Entrada Kelly and Kacen Callender.—Molly Saunders, Manatee County Public Libraries, Bradenton, FL

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Korean American middle schooler Lily thinks she has to take on a magical tiger in order to save her beloved Halmoni (grandmother), but the truth is much more complicated. An ambitious number of themes--coming of age, family relationships (particularly between sisters and between generations), belonging, friendship, grief, and end-of-life--intertwine in a heartfelt novel. Debut author Keller incorporates Korean folktales throughout, adding richness and depth. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 3–7—Keller's narrative can't be faulted—the story is achingly gorgeous. A widowed Korean American mother and her two mixed-race daughters move from California to Washington to live with their glamorous, unconventional Halmoni—grandmother" in Korean. Older sister Sam—living in sullen teenagerhood—is resistant, but younger Lily can't get enough of Halmoni's magical tales. When Lily learns of Halmoni's illness, she negotiates a deal with a mythic tiger to save Halmoni's life. While Keller, whose own grandmother is Korean, has written an affirming book, the audio adaptation, narrated by Korean American Greta Jung, amplifies Keller's easily correctable cultural stumbles. Keller's use of "Unya" for "older sister" is particularly jarring; "unnee" is older sister, the suffix '-ya' akin to adding 'hey' or 'yo' when calling to someone—"This is it, Unya cried," translates to "hey, unnee cried." Perhaps Jung could only read exactly what's on the page, but as her Korean is uneven (the pronunciation of "Halmoni," for example, is inconsistent), writer, reader, and certainly the producers missed an obvious opportunity for improvement or correction. VERDICT Alas, this audio interpretation misses the mark.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list If stories were written in the stars and guarded by tigers, this wondrous tale would be one of the brightest. Lily is happy when she; her mom; and sister, Sam, move, because it means they will spend more time with their grandmother, their halmoni, whose life is full of magic. Halmoni has always told beautiful stories about clever sisters and equally clever tigers not to be trusted but Lily soon finds that life is not how she expected it to be. Sam isn't so happy about the move, and worse, Halmoni is very sick, so when a tiger appears to Lily, offering her a deal, she thinks it could be what saves her grandmother. Lily's magic-realist world, rooted in Korean folklore, will envelop readers as she deals with growing up (and, at times, apart from her sister), finding new friends, and coping with her grandmother's illness. Keller's characters from Halmoni, who dresses up to go grocery shopping, to Sam, who hides her own heartbreaks will have readers wishing they were real. Every chapter is filled with a richness and magic that demands every word be treasured, a heartfelt reminder of the wonder and beauty in our everyday lives. Readers young and old will want to trap this story in a jar forever.--Selenia Paz Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Making deals with talking tigers was the one thing that biracial Lily’s glamorous Korean grandmother, Halmoni, warned her never to do. Yet when Halmoni falls ill, a magical tiger offers Lily an ultimatum: recover the stories that Halmoni stole years ago, or lose her forever. Keller weaves Korean folk tradition with warm scenes of Korean-American domesticity—preparing food for ancestral spirits, late night snacking on kimchi. The result is a story that seamlessly transitions from the mundane to the magical, never jarring when Lily’s contemporary America is sporadically replaced with a mythical land of sky gods and tiger girls. Beyond the magical elements, a diverse cast of characters populate Lily’s world—her sullen older sister, Sam; her widowed mother; the kind library staff; and Ricky, a new friend with more than one family secret. While the pacing is slow, the characters’ development feels authentic and well drawn. Keller’s (The Science of Breakable Things) #OwnVoices journey through Korean mythology begins with a fantastical quest and slowly transforms into a tale about letting go and the immortality that story can allow. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family's past and the strength of her own voice.For many years, Lily's Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly white community. When Lily, her sister, Samboth biracial, Korean and whiteand their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn't mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.Longingfor connection, for family, for a voiceroars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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