Monday, August 22, 2022

THE OCEAN CALLS: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

Tina Cho's book, THE OCEAN CALLS, (Penguin Random House, 2020) about the Korean Haenyeo scuba divers is informative, beautiful, and engaging. The illustrations by Jess X. Snow carry readers through this story of a young girl learning to face her fears and dive into a new adventure. As Tina explains in the back matter, the story was inspired when she watched the haenyeo tradition in South Korea.


This day-in-the-life story begins with Dayeon and her grandmother stretching and preparing for the day. Dayeon tells her, "I want to be a haenyeo like you...You're like a treasure-hunting mermaid."

But Dayeon remembers how frightened she was the previous summer when she jumped off a big rock. The sharks and other sea creatures that lurk in the ocean frightened her. With her grandmother's reassurance that she will teach her everything she needs to know, the two prepare for their dive. 

They each carry the tools they'll need: Grandma has what she needs to pluck treasures from the sea and Dayeon brings tools to bring treasures from the shore.

I love how the illustrator created mermaids out of their shadows!

Grandma brings up the treasures she finds--sea urchins and other sea life which she will sell or cook--and Dayeon watches. She slips into the ocean and brings pretty shells back to her grandmother who invites her to dive with her.

"What if I can't breathe? What if a shark comes? What if I can't escape?" Dayeon replies. 

The two walk into the water. When Dayeon can no longer feel the bottom, she locked hands with Grandma. "Take a deep breath, calm your mind, and then we'll dive."

Down, Down, Dayeon and Grandma dove, but...Dayeon swam right back up.

The two dive down again and Dayeon holds her breath longer, goes deeper, and sees more sparkling treasures. When dolphin arrive--a sure sign that hungry sharks will follow--they resurface and are rescued by a boat full of haenyeos. 

In the satisfying ending, Dayeon realizes that she feels at home in the sea--just like her grandmother, and the Korean "mermaids" who have gone before her. 


THE OCEAN CALLS  is a great book for K-third graders. It will be a good addition to oceanography studies as well as conversations about Korea, grandparents as role models, and women's roles. Tina has a complete discussion guide here.

Here is a youtube video about Haenyeo women:

And a video of Tina reading her book:


Please leave a comment with your email address if you are new to my blog. U.S. addresses only. If you decide to subscribe to my blog or are an educator, I will enter your name twice. Just let me know what you do in the comments. Giveaway ends August 26.  


Susan said...

Would love to be entered to win! Hanley told me about the divers a few years ago when they lived in Korea!

Marci said...

This book is lovely--the art, the language, and it tells an important story. Thanks for sharing, Carol!

Danielle H. said...

I love the ocean and this book is gorgeous. I love the mermaid spread--so creative. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

Storylady said...

This is so unbelievable! I have just finished reading Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women which is the adult novel about haenyeo. It is fascinating, and the history surrounding this culture is also. I would love to have The Ocean Calls.

Carol Baldwin said...

How cool, Gwen!

Carol Baldwin said...

You're welcome, Danielle!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Marci. I'll add your name to the giveaway list!

Carol Baldwin said...

That is very cool, Susan!

Unknown said...

Would love to have this for our school library:

Tammi Truax
New Franklin School

Carol Baldwin said...

You’re in twice, Tammi!

Unknown said...

Thanks again for this nice blog post, Carol!

Unknown said...

I was terrified to go in the first time I was near the ocean. I could relate to, "What if I can't breathe? What if a shark comes? What if I can't escape?"
Great book!
Hewi Mason

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, Hewi! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Carolyn Fraiser said...

What a beautiful book and amazing story. Can't wait to read it Tina Cho! Thanks for sharing!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Carolyn. Your name goes in the "pot"!

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