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Multicultural Children's Literature
Dear Juno
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by Soyung Pak
Illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

Soyung Pak deftly weaves this story of a young boy who is just learning to read and write in English and cannot yet read or write in Korean. Pak's text gentle explicates the challenge of keeping ties with family in one's native country and brings the reader to a satisfying solution.

 

Juno loves to receive letters from his grandmother in Korea. One night, however, his parents are too busy with evening chores to translate grandmother's latest letter for him. Juno decides to read the letter himself. Inside, he finds dried flowers and a photograph of his grandmother holding a cat. Juno rightly interprets that grandmother has a new cat and that the flowers are from grandmother's garden. Juno decides to write a letter back to his grandmother, using crayons to draw his house, his dog, and himself. He encloses a leaf from the "swinging tree" in his yard. Grandmother and grandson continue their loving correspondence, both visual and textual.

 

Susan Hartung's ingenious perspectives draw the reader into the story. Her illustrations give us (1) over-the-shoulder, first-person views of Juno's predicament (mother and father working in the kitchen; grandmother's letter in Korean); (2) a long-distance view of grandmother in her garden in Korea (viewed through an opening in the treetops); and (3) a third-person view of Juno creating his letter, where the reader is facing Juno but down on the floor with him.

 

Children whose grandparents live some distance away will especially appreciate this tale!

 

Pak, Soyung. 1999. Dear Juno. Illus. Susan Kathleen Hartung. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-88252-6.

 

 

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