The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

Tina Cho, illus. by Jess X. Snow. Kokila, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-984814-86-9
Grandma is part of an island community of haenyeo—South Korean deep-sea divers. She and her fellow divers, all older women, venture without oxygen deep into the ocean to gather abalone, sea urchins, and other treasures. Dayeon, her granddaughter, wants to be a haenyeo (“You’re like a treasure-hunting mermaid,” she says admiringly), but she’s scared. After an earlier attempt at swimming, “water had filled her ears and nose, burned her eyes, and stung her skin.” Grandma shows patience and faith as she listens to her granddaughter’s anxiety, then responds: “Can’t you hear what the waves are saying? They’re calling to us to come home.” Striking digital artwork by Snow (Black Girl Magic) captures the swirl of the ocean currents, the contrast between the sun’s citrus hues and the ocean’s blues, and the bounty of sea life. In one spread, Snow shows grandmother and granddaughter heading for the beach as the sun casts shadows behind them that look like mermaid’s tails. Sturdy prose by Cho (Rice from Heaven) highlights a segment of Korean society whose women preserve a vibrant tradition of enterprise, stamina, and cooperation, and Grandma shines as a kind of generous real-life superhero. Back matter offers additional information about “Korea’s granny mermaids.” Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Adria Goetz, Martin Literary Management. Illustrator’s agent: Wendi Gu, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/18/2020
Release date: 08/04/2020
Genre: Children's
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