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When Spring Comes to the DMZ

by Uk-Bae Lee.

Publishers Weekly Created after the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953, the Korean demilitarized zone split the country in two, dividing its population and separating families. In the swath between the countries' barbed wire borders, though, the natural world flourishes: "When spring comes to the DMZ,/ green shoots spring up in the meadows." South Korean peace activist Lee celebrates the animals that thrive despite the political tension: "The seals don't know about the line./ They come and go freely." Throughout the seasons, an old man climbs the observation tower to look through a telescope; finely worked landscapes are drawn through his eyes: "Grandfather wants to fling the tightly locked gates wide open." A bold gatefold lets readers do just that, and Lee imagines Grandfather walking through the meadow with his grandson. Greater historical context beyond the included back matter would have been beneficial, but the story's poignancy will resonate. Ages 5-8. (Mar.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus This bittersweet picture book walks through the four seasons at Korea's heavily weaponized demilitarized zone, celebrating the nature that thrives there while mourning the human cost of this border wall. Although the story does not even define or discuss the DMZ or the Korean War, colorful illustrations reveal to young readers the long fences of razor wire hugging a beautiful mountainside. But because no humans are allowed in this 2.5-mile-wide, 150-mile-long buffer zone, the area has unintentionally become a nature sanctuary. The water deer, striped salmon, and mountain goats know no limitations to their habitat, crossing borders, swimming under barbed wire, and nesting near land mines. Their freedom, together with many references to home and family, stand in stark contrast to the military exercises that have continued through the cease-fire since 1953. Lee views this irony through the character of elderly Grandfather, who makes his way to the wall every season, gazing longingly upon his inaccessible former homeland. A foldout reveal at book's end is symbolic of the hope of a reunified Korea, with a simple reunion embrace representing the dreams of families separated since the 1950s. The endnote provides needed background along with a plea for peace and freedom.The cupboard is nearly bare of children's books about the DMZ, making this an excellent introduction to the crises on the Korean Peninsula as well as a great choice for social justice collections, peace promoters, and animal lovers. (Picture book. 4-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 1-3-Illustrations inspired by traditional Korean painting techniques are the star of this picture book in translation. Lyrical text, reminiscent of free verse, describes the wildlife and weather of Korea's Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) during each season in turn. Readers might think the book is about a nature preserve until they examine the accompanying illustrations, which show barbed wire and floodlights in the background of idyllic scenes of animals native to Korea. Lee describes human activities in the DMZ each season, too, depicting military activities and a grandfather who longs for the unified Korea of his youth. Back matter includes a simplified land map of North and South Korea, along with a description of the DMZ's history that will be easy for young readers to grasp. The descriptions of separated families and war violence in this afterword may be difficult for sensitive readers to process, but Lee's message advocating for a unified, peaceful Korea gives the book an overall hopeful tone. VERDICT Deftly tackling a topic that will likely be unfamiliar to many readers, this is sure to spark discussion among budding history enthusiasts.-Katherine Barr, Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, NC Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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

Book list Every spring, Grandfather climbs the stairs to the observatory at the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that separates the people of North and South Korea. He peers through binoculars, and readers get to see what he sees: an abundance of flora and fauna. Situated between walls of barbed wire, this strip of land has been untouched by humans since 1954 and bears witness to the glory of nature. Grandfather visits again in summer, autumn, and winter, all the while, soldiers practice their drills. The contrast between the joy of blooming nature and Grandfather's silent longing is sharp. While birds can fly south from the north, people cannot cross. Highly detailed illustrations in watercolor and pencil capture the softness of Grandfather's heart and the exuberance of wildlife that grows without bounds. Back matter provides a brief explanation of the Korean War and the pain of the separated populations with eerie timeliness. Hyechong Chung's K Is for Korea (2008) and Jon Agee's The Wall in the Middle of the Book (2018) might help young readers who need additional context.--Amina Chaudhri Copyright 2019 Booklist

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

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