Saturday, February 12, 2022

I ESCAPED NORTH KOREA: A Review by Guest Blogger, Elliott Kurta

I'm happy to have Elliott Kurta back for another book review. Since he's enjoying the opportunity to read and review a variety of books, you can look forward to more of his reviews in the future.

REVIEW

            I Escaped North Korea is an informative book about the struggles North Koreans faced during 2007. Dae-hyun, the protagonist, is only fourteen when his father is arrested and his mother journeys to Pyongyang to save her husband. Dae-hyun realizes his mother isn’t coming back, so he tries to survive by stealing coal and food. Soon, Dae-hyun longs to leave his country and journey to China, where there is hot running water and readily available food. He’s offered a job which would pay well and send him to China--at the cost of endangering his life. He accepts the job and is charged with delivering medicine across the frozen Yalu river. Once in China, Dae-hyun finds he doesn’t want to leave, even if he’d be staying as an illegal citizen and an orphan. While looking for other work, Dae-hyun stumbles upon a minister who offers to send him to Mongolia in order to obtain political asylum—thus beginning the journey of  his life and for his life.

            Throughout their first novel together, Ellie Crowe and Scott Peters provide an ideal example of ‘show, don’t tell’. Unlike most middle-school books, information is not presented in a manner that tells readers what they should think. Instead, they will come to their own conclusions about life in North Korea as they read about Dae-hyun going to school and being asked to share a personal failure in a class exercise. However, I Escaped North Korea is not overly graphic, except for two minor expletives in the first twenty pages. While themes such as corrupt governments, violent and cruel police officers, and starving families are present throughout this historical narrative, Dae-hyun also experiences the kindness of strangers. From the kotjebi or orphan Ki-moon who helps Dae-hyun find food and shares his stolen goods to the South Korean minister who brings Dae-hyun on a journey to seek political asylum, Dae-hyun’s journey is spectacular. 

            Seeing North Korea through Dae-hyun’s eyes makes the struggles of citizens in another country personal for the reader. With an average of four pages per chapter, I Escaped North Korea will ensnare reluctant readers from the first page with increasingly high-stakes action.

            Even with all the captivating action present, I Escaped North Korea is still a heartfelt and emotional novel. The brevity of the novel does not take away from its descriptions, like when Dae-hyun describes how his father’s crimes have brought his family ‘low’. Even though most readers will not be able to relate to Dae-hyun as he’s chased across a frozen river, when they read the sentence below they will find themselves running alongside him.


 "With a sickening snap, the ice beneath his feet moved.

            He pictured the water beneath the splitting surface. Black. Cold. Deadly.

            'Dae!' Ki-moon screamed…”

            On top of the facts presented in this book, at the end there is a sheet of additional information and a brief appendix with a study guide and more books to read. After the study guide, there is an afterword that further explains the route to Mongolia and what life is like in North Korea. There’s even a website link at the back of the book that directs to study questions for each chapter and a coloring sheet of North Korea and surrounding countries.

        For 8–12-year-old reluctant readers, this book will serve as a great introduction to the historical fiction genre. The short chapters of this book are both engaging and informative. Be prepared for a barrage of questions after your child, friend, sibling, or students breathlessly finish reading I Escaped North Korea. For another, equally thrilling read, check out the rest of the I Escaped nine-book series, which ranges from surviving the brutal Salem Witch Trials to escaping the ruthless pirates of the Caribbean.   


Elliott is a prolific reader of various genres who is more than happy to share his opinions on books. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, and running. He is an 8th grade homeschool student in Charlotte, NC.          

GIVEAWAY

Please leave a comment by 6 PM on February 17 with your email address, or send me an email. If you share this on social media, you will get one extra chance; if you follow my blog you will get another chance. Tell me what you have done and I will enter your name accordingly. U.S. addresses only. 

Congratulations to Tiffany Slack who won Rock and Vole for the Matthews Christian Library and to Rosi Hollenbeck who won Where is My Cow? By the way, Rosi also reviews and gives away lots of children's books!

 

21 comments:

Annette Whipple said...

Looks like one my kids should read...and me, too.
annettemwhipple@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Annette. Your name starts the list!

Rosi said...

What a wonderful review. You have a real writer on your hands, Carol. I will pass on the giveaway. Too many books. Not enough time. Thanks for the post.

DMS said...

This sounds like a powerful book. I enjoyed reading the review. Thanks for the chance to win a copy too. :)
~Jess

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Jess. your name goes in the hat!

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds like a fantastic story. I've always been fascinated about what life was like in North Korea. And it must not have been that much easier as an orphan in China.

Greg Pattridge said...

Your review touched on the many points that will bring readers to this title. I liked how the pages don't preach but give the facts. Thanks for sharing this title. I've added it to my future read list but let someone else win the giveaway who can get to it in more timely manner. Great job, Elliott!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Greg and Natalie. Appreciate you stopping by!

Sue Heavenrich said...

Thanks, Elliott, for such an excellent review. Sounds like this book hit all the high spots with what you are seeking in a good read.

Danielle H. said...

Another excellent review, Elliott! You've convinced me that I need to read this book. I know it will help me not only learn about a new culture, but will also help me better understand what hardships some people must endure. I am a happy follower of Carol's blog and shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/676185386050060288/i-escaped-north-korea-a-review-by-guest-blogger

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Danielle. You're in three times!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Susan. You're in twice!

Patricia T. said...

This sounds like a fascinating read. It is similar, but different from other books I have read/reviewed. Every Fallen Star (a finalist in the Cybils several yrs ago) is a wonderful YA memoir about a boy's escape from North Korea -- also very graphic. I enjoyed learning about how kids are brain-washed from birth, the history of North Korea, and the extreme poverty. This book reminds me of the escape through China.

I've also discovered a lot of Korean/Chinese/Turkish movies on Netflix. One Korean series I love is called the "King's Affection" a medieval fable of sorts. It's beautiful. This one is dubbed in English, others have subtitles. It is fun to watch and learn about the culture.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Patricia for your thoughtful comment. Since you subscribe to my blog you're in twice!

Terri DeGezelle Michels said...

A very interesting title and a great Blog post.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, TErri--and thanks for subscribing!

Carol Baldwin said...

I do have a real writer on my hands, Rosi. Lucky me!

Esther M. Bandy said...

Elliott, thanks for another thoughtful and well-written book review.
Carol, thank you for sharing Elliott's review and thank you for offering a giveaway. It sounds like a fascinating and powerful middle-grade novel, and I'd love to read it.

Carol Baldwin said...

I'll add your name to the giveaway list, Esther. Thanks for your comment!

Ellie said...

What a great review and what a great reviewer. Thank you Elliott, I am so glad you enjoyed and appreciated my book - my heart was in it! Ellie Crowe

Carol Baldwin said...

Eilliott is a thoughtful reviewer, Ellie. Glad you enjoyed his review.

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