It is amazing how many connections pop up at unexpected times. I was at a meeting recently and encountered a young woman who mentioned that her sister had gone to Hawaii, and I asked if she was from Hawaii. She told me that actually she was Korean and had been adopted and brought here when she was nine months old. The following week, I met her mother who was not Korean, but had tried to introduce her daughter to as much of the Korean culture as was possible.
Because my oldest daughter's husband is Korean American and was born just after his parents came here from South Korea, I have learned more about Korean culture and am always interested to know more. I asked if she had had a hanbok, a traditional outfit worn by a Korean child on the first birthday, and she assured me that she had.
Because my new friend has a Masters in Library Science and works at one of the large libraries near me, we proceeded to discuss books, and of course we talked about A Single Shard, the Newbery Medal winner in 2002, set in 12th century Korea. It is one of the most memorable books I've ever read, and although it's a children's book, it resonates deep in the heart for adults as well. I told her that my granddaughter Jung-Sook, when she was about nine years old, had read it, and asked her mother about the author, whose name is Linda Sue Park, if that was a Korean name, and her mother assured her that it was. She smiled, heaved a big sigh, and said, "At last! Someone who understands my culture!"
When we met again this week, our conversation again turned to books, and I mentioned that when my son was little, I'd found a wonderful book that he loved about a baby who ate avocados and defeated a burglar, but we'd never been able to find it again after the first time we took it out of the library. I couldn't remember the name of the book, either, but she whipped out her phone, and started clicking and in a few minutes was able to tell me it was Avocado Baby by John Burningham. I'm not sure if Gilbert will remember it, but I ordered it to share with my grandchildren as well as to bring back happy memories for me. My son still appreciates quirky children's books, and this year bought I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio for one of his nieces, in which the little crocodile with a big appetite discovers that the child is more than a match for him.
And while we're rounding out our discussion of children's books, I was delighted to learn that Dan Santat, a long time friend of my son-in-law won the Caldecott Medal in 2015
for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend.
It's a charming and unique book, and I am thrilled that it won the top award for children's picture books. When I studied Children's Literature in college, Caldecott and Newbery award winners seemed to be in the same category as historical characters, but here is one the same age as my son-in-law, some of whose adventures in writing for children I have heard about through the years! It gives children's literature a three dimensional reality for me.