North Korea is front page news these days but it remains a place of mystery to most people. There are few books for children about North Korea so I am excited to share this new one:
Rice From Heaven, The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans
by Tina Cho (author) and Keum Jin Song (illustrator)
Little Bee Books 2018
This picture book, based on a true story, is written from the viewpoint of Yoori, a young South Korean girl. Yoori participates in her church’s plan to send rice in special balloons over the border to North Korea. Yoori knows how difficult life is for North Koreans as her father grew up there and was able to escape from starvation and hardship. Although she is but “a little grain of rice,” Yoori is happy to know that she can do something to help children who are like her except that they do not have enough food to eat.
Their mission is interrupted by villagers who don’t want them to feed the enemy. Yoori stands up to a boy and explains why they must help.
Finally, the balloons are launched “like stealthy ninjas to fight hunger in the darkness of the night.” It is Yoori’s prayer that the balloons won’t be intercepted by North Korean soldiers and that the rice will reach the hungry children.
Keum Jin Song’s beautiful illustrations glow on the pages. The contrasts between the desolation of North Korea and the lushness of South Korea will help children to better understand the stark differences in life between each location.
Rice From Heaven is an important and powerful book about hope, kindness, and empathy. It will give parents and teachers a place to start discussions on hard issues such as hunger, inequality, and political strife. It also shows that people working together can make a difference in improving the lives of others.
Author Tina Cho lives and teaches in South Korea. She has included facts about the actual balloon launch as well as information about North Korea and South Korea, a map, a summary of the politics of the Korean peninsula, and resources for further exploration.
So often we feel helpless in the face of difficult situations. Our family has been following the plight of orphans in North Korea for many years and know the dire situation facing these children and of most of the population of North Korea. We have been able to help provide health and nutritional support to orphaned children in North Korea through Holt International Children’s Services.
It is never to early to help children understand the lives of others. This is my daughter, Christina Mee, reading with Thomas and Evelyn.