By Elizabeth Wroten
Chapter Book Review: Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park
On 21, Dec 2015 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
From Goodreads: Jade never ventures beyond the walls of her family’s Inner Court; in seventeenth-century Korea, a girl of good family does not leave home until she marries. She is enthralled by her older brother’s stories about trips to the market and to the ancestral grave sites in the mountains, about reading and painting, about his conversations with their father about business and politics and adventures only boys can have. Jade accepts her destiny, and yet she is endlessly curious about what lies beyond the walls.
Linda Sue Park writes the most beautiful books and she is so good about weaving in parts of Korean history and culture into the stories without making it feel didactic or like an info dump. On the other hand, these are books that strike me as good classroom reads. They are short, but harder (see the Lexile rating) and the stories are gentle and quiet and make you think. My current group of kids would be hard pressed to pick this up on their own. They don’t read a lot of contemplative stuff (although there are some who will!) and they don’t tend toward historical fiction.
That being said, this book is so worth a read. It’s fascinating to see a girl restricted by social mores break them and discover the consequences. She also begins to strive to find a way to work within the system instead of rebelling constantly. There is a really poignant conversation Jade has with her mother about making what she has enough instead of always wanting more.
As the story unfolds the reader comes to realize that Jade will never see her best friend again and will eventually have to give up her mother and family. It’s a tough realization and makes you think about life for these girls. The tedium of washing clothing, sewing clothing, needle point, and food serving are very vividly brought to life. But so is the beauty of a life well and simply lived.
Well worth having on the shelf as is Park’s A Single Shard which gives the male peasant perspective on a similar (same? I can’t remember exactly) time period.