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Books for Kids – Korean Folk Tales & Grandmother Stories

In this series, we present you 7 books which are popular among kids in Korea. These books cover Korean Folk Tales, Stories, Proverbs, Songs, Easy Recipes and many more to get your kid acquainted with the Korean Culture.

Bee-Bim Bop!
by Linda Sue Park, Ho Baek Lee

A wonderful paperback picture book about the joys of family and food, from Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park. Bee-bim bop (“mix-mix rice”) is a traditional Korean dish. In bouncy rhyming text, a hungry child tells of helping her mother make bee-bim bop: shopping, preparing ingredients, setting the table, and sitting down to enjoy a favorite meal. The enthusiasm of the narrartor is conveyed in the whimsical illustrations, which bring details from the artist’s childhood in Korea to his depiction of a modern Korean-American family. The book includes Linda Sue’s own bee-bim bop recipe!

The story follows a young girl and her mother on a shopping expedition. In rhyme the girl continually prods her mother along with lines like, “Hurry, Mama, hurry / Gotta shop shop shop! / Hungry hungry hungry / for some BEE-BIM BOP!”. Back at home the two stir and fry, flip the egg pancakes, set the rice ah-steaming, and chop some garlic and green onions. This goes on with more and more ingredients cooked and added. The table is set with spoons and chopsticks, the family gathers, and it is finally suppertime. Everyone mixes all the ingredients together (the “bee-bim”) and chow down on some yummy food. Park includes a recipe for Bee-bim Bop at the end. The cooking instructions are clever separated into the parts that “You” can do (like mixing together ingredients and pouring in the water) and the parts a “Grownup” will have to do as well.

Waiting for Mama
by Tae-Joon Lee, Dong-Sung Kim

Told in a few lines of text, this tender story was first published in a newspaper in 1938. This tale from Korea is universal–a small child waits for Mama at the station, asking the conductor if he has seen her. The conductor hasn’t, but cautions the child to wait a little farther from the tracks. It is cold and snowy but the child waits patiently until finally Mama comes. In the last wordless spread, we see the small hand in a mother’s firm clasp as they walk away from us. The art and text are so authentic, so real, that this book is best published in a bilingual edition that respects and honors those traditions. The Korean setting gives it special appeal to a growing demographic segment.

The lovely new pastel-and-ink illustrations depict life of the period. Some are simple ink drawings on ivory pages; others fill the pages with color and texture. The contrast is very pleasing. Changes in perspective effectively create movement and involvement. The text seems secondary to the setting and the art. An afterword on various details in the pictures is included.

Korean Children’s Favorite Stories
by Kim So-Un, Jeong Kyoung-Sim

A captivating collection of Korean folktales told the way they have been for generations. Written with wit and pathos understandable at any age, they unveil the inevitable foibles of people everywhere and expose the human-like qualities of animals and the animal-like qualities in humans.

These 13 tales first appeared in Story Bag: A Collection of Korean Folk Tales and have been newly illustrated. Though no source notes are included, an introduction by the author speaks to the authenticity of the selections. The collection includes elements shared by many cultures, such as a flood story, and others with a unique sensibility. A variety of animals appear, including tigers, both good and bad, and snakes, depicted as dragons. The delicate watercolor illustrations make the stories accessible to children, and the square format and the calligraphic quality of the titles contribute to the overall sense of design. Appropriately, the opening tale speaks to the importance of sharing stories, and this collection succeeds in making these little-known offerings accessible to a new audience.

All About Korea: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More
by Ann Martin Bowler, Soosoonam Barg

Perfect for educators or parents wishing to teach kids about different cultures, this new book in the Tuttle “All About Asia” series includes favorite games, foods, special holiday times and after-school activities unique to Korea. All About Korea is a fun-filled journey to a new place.

Learn how to play the exciting Korean see-saw game with a friend; hot to sing “Happy Birthday” in Korean, and how kids say “hello!” Other activities include making a White Tiger puppet, playing jegi (Korean hacky-sack) and singing “Arirang,” Korea’s most beloved song. Enjoy the traditional stories “Taming a Tiger” and “Two Foolish Green Frogs.” Easy recipes are included for delicious treats like kimbap (roll-your-own wraps) and songpyeon (sweet filled rice cakes).

“All About Korea is a rich trove of activities and information about Korea, compiled by author Ann Martin Bowler. In fifteen chapters, appealingly illustrated by Soosoonam Barg, Bowler presents history, games, folktales, some basic Korean language, songs, recipes, and information about holidays, arts and crafts, architecture, and values. In addition to use in the classroom, the many Korean-American parents and adoptive parents of Korean-born children will be gratified and assisted by Bowler and BargÆs book in instilling in their bicultural children a sense of pride and respect for the Korean people and their country.”—

Tigers, Frogs, and Rice Cakes: A Book of Korean Proverbs
by Soma Han Stickler

Sok-dam – folk sayings – represent enduring values held throughout all strata of Korean society. Each proverb in this book focuses on a significant folk symbol or belief deeply held by Koreans. In a culture where language ability, particularly taciturnity, is highly respected, proverbs are used as a tool for expressing oneself with grace and style. Accompanied by glowing illustrations, twenty proverbs are grouped in three themes: character, cooperation and accomplishment, and eating. By reading and understanidng only a few words, the simple elegance of proverbs helps us learn much about Korean culture and langauge.

Each of these 20 folk sayings or adages is given in English and Korean, and includes a phonetic pronunciation or romanization. Some of the proverbs are clear and straightforward, such as Love must be given before it can be received. Others, such as Seven falls, eight rises and Licking the outside of a watermelon, are more obscure and difficult to understand. However, an informative appendix explains the proverbs in further detail and groups them into categories: Character, Cooperation and Accomplishment, and Eating.

Long Long Time Ago: Korean Folk Tales
by Hollym International Corp., Dong-sung Kim

Here in these twenty most wonderful stories, children will meet the long-time friends of Korean children. A rabbit who outwits a tiger, a brother and a sister who became the Sun and the Moon, ogres and their magic clubs, a tortoise and hare who are totally different from the ones in Aesop’s fable, rats who want the Sun to became their son-in-law, and many many more beloved characters.

Such stories as these, while appealing to children everywhere, are also true reflections of Korean customs and tradition. So these stories also serve as a wonderful way to understand the culture and customs of Korea. The illustrations are very classic, lovely and traditional. It is written and illustrated by Koreans and has over 10 very popular Korean folk tales.

Tales of a Korean Grandmother: 32 Traditional Tales from Korea
by Frances Carpenter

The Korean people, like the Chinese, possess a folklore tradition as colorful and captivating as any in the world, but the stories themselves still are not as well-known to Western readers as those from The Brothers Grimm, Mother Goose, or Hans Christian Andersen.

In her best-selling book for young readers, Frances Carpenter collects thirty-two classic stories from the land of Korea: the woodcutter and the old men of the mountain; the puppy who saved his village from a tiger; the singing girl who danced the Japanese General into the deep river; Why the Dog and Cat are Not friends; and even a more familiar tale of the clever rabbit who outsmarted the tortoise. The children of the Kim family sit at their beloved Grandmother’s knee to listen to these and other traditional folk tales which are rooted in thousands of years of Korean culture.  This book is recommended to any parent or grandparent of a Korean child.

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