COOPER'S LESSON

Sun Yung Shin, Author, Kim Cogan, Illustrator , illus. by Kim Cogan. Children's Book Press $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-89239-193-6

First-timer Shin tells the story of a bi-racial boy's misstep, and the resulting unlikely friendship with a dour grocer. Establishing Cooper's circumstances with care, Shin draws an uncertain child with a foot in two worlds, one whose Korean grandmother remarks on his pale coloring and freckles, while his white grandmother says, "What brown skin!" Always an anxious visitor at the neighborhood grocer's, Cooper dreads Mr. Lee and his customers, who all speak Korean, and expect the same from Cooper. "The Korean writing on the cans and boxes seemed to dance off the labels.... He looked at Mr. Lee and thought to himself, Why don't you speak English to me? " Unfortunately, the illustrations, by first-timer Cogan, lack the clarity of the text; muddy colors and stiff shapes prevent the pictures from conveying Cooper's feelings. In a critical moment described by Shin with close attention to the emotions that typify children's misdeeds, Cooper steals a hairbrush for his mother. The unexpected compassion the grocer shows the young shoplifter and the growth of Cooper's first friendship with another adult (besides his mother) who speaks Korean provide a satisfying conclusion. Text appears on each page in English, with the Korean below it; Korean dialogue sprinkled through the English text emphasizes the boy's frustration at being unable to communicate. While the story will have most resonance for those struggling with a second language, the themes of wrongdoing and reparations will speak to all children. Ages 6-up. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2004
Release date: 01/01/2004
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-89239-361-9
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