Can two children escape North Korea on their own?
North Korea. December, 1950.
Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don't trust your neighbors. Don't speak your mind. You are being watched.
But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos--and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.
But they can't. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?
Haunting, timely, and beautiful, this harrowing novel from a searing new talent offers readers a glimpse into a vanished time and a closed nation.
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Lee's urgent debut begins at the outset of the Korean War as experienced by 12-year-old Sora Pak, only daughter and eldest of three, who lives in communist North Korea. After learning that the North and South are at war, the Paks, terrified by the prospect of a continued life under communism, flee in the dark of night for the Southern city of Busan, nearly 400 miles away. A bombing soon separates Sora and her eight-year-old brother, Youngsoo, from their parents, and the children must make the unknown journey on their own. Sora's responsibility to Youngsoo grows fraught when he becomes ill, and she fights to care for him under increasingly impossible conditions. Sora, who yearns for an education as much as she longs to be valued as an individual by her family and her culture, is a compelling and sympathetic narrator whose deep love for Youngsoo is mixed with resentment at his revered status as a son. Her anger at her beleaguered mother whom she can never please is also a source of grief. A moving, suspenseful refugee story, based loosely on the author's mother's experiences, the book is at heart a poignant exploration of a girl's struggle against traditional female roles and her determination to succeed on her own terms. Ages 8 12. \n