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The Royal Bee,


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About the Author

Frances Park and Ginger Park are sisters who also co-authored My Freedom Trip. They both live in the Washington, D.C. area.

Christopher Zhong-Yuan Zhang is the illustrator of Moon Festival by Ching Yeung Russell. He divides his time between his native China and New London, Connecticut.


The Park sisters once again look back to their Korean roots for inspiration, but this time they undermine the suspense employed to such strong effect in their debut, My Freedom Trip. Song-ho, a sangmin boy, performs household chores dressed in rags while the privileged yangban dress in finery, attend school and compete in the Royal Bee at the Governor's palace. One day, Master Min catches Song-ho eavesdropping at the schoolroom door. When Song-ho asks the master if he can become his pupil, learn to read and write and thus "earn a good living for his mother," the man dismisses the boy. Readers may be confounded when a turn of the page reveals an abrupt about-face; the story line plants Song-ho firmly inside the classroom where he is inexplicably accepted into the school ("After each yangban pupil in the classroom had tested Song-ho, Master Min spoke: `Welcome to the Sodang School, Song-ho' "). This clumsy transition at the plot's pivotal point cuts into the credibility and flow of the tale. A similar narrative leap omits the boy's climb to the top of the class and his peers' growing respect, which results in their selecting him as representative of the school for the Royal Bee competition. Rendered in oil paints on board, Zhong-Yuan Zhang's (Moon Festival) inconsistent paintings intermittently depict characters as blurred or wooden, yet successfully convey the likable hero's sincerity and determination. Ages 6-9. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

K-Gr 3-Inspired by the childhood experiences of the authors' grandfather in the late 19th century, this moving story tells about a poor Korean boy who perseveres in getting an education, thereby raising himself and his mother out of poverty. Drawn away from his household chores by the sound of the school bell in the valley, Song-ho is told by the master that only the privileged yangban children may attend. Each day, however, the boy listens outside the door. One cold morning, the kind master invites him in. Successfully answering the pupils' study-based questions, Song-ho is not only allowed to join the school, but is also selected later to represent it in The Royal Bee, where the best student in the land is determined. His final answer to "What does winning The Royal Bee mean to you?" brings him a standing ovation and the winner's rewards. This simply and eloquently told tale is well paired with large, bold oil-paint-on-board illustrations. The soft earth-tone palette brightens to capture the excitement of The Royal Bee at the Governor's palace. A fine work portraying the culture of a Korea 100 years ago.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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