Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

Tina Cho, illus. by Keum Jin Song. Little Bee, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4998-0682-3
In a story at once lyrical and hard-hitting, Cho, a South Korean resident, reimagines a 2016 humanitarian mission in which she participated involving a clandestine rice delivery, via helium balloons, to hungry North Koreans. Narrator Yoori and her father (who grew up “starving” in North Korea and “escaped down here to the south”) arrive at the border between the two countries, where they help other volunteers from their church inflate balloons and attach bags of rice to them. When other children begin chanting “Don’t feed the enemy,” Yoori says, “The hope in my heart withers like a dying rice stalk,” and she chastises them, asserting that “We must help!/ North Korean children have no rice.” Featuring sharp, foliage-heavy illustrations and divergent color palettes, Song’s art dramatically reveals the stark contrast between the landscapes of South and North; vivid flowers and fruit grow in the lush terrain of the former, while withered vines and leafless trees dominate the latter’s barren countryside. Concluding notes on the history, culture, and politics of the Korean peninsula provide context for this eye-opening, hopeful story. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Adria Goetz, Martin Literary Management. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/25/2018
Release date: 08/14/2018
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