WOW Review: Reading Across Cultures

Peach Heaven
Written by Yangsook Choi
Francis Foster, 2005, 30 pp, ISBN 10: 0-374-35761-7

Peach Heaven is the author/illustrator’s own recollection of a childhood memory. Told from the perspective of a young Yangsook, she shares her love for the peaches grown in the mountains behind her home, Puchon. The peaches grown there are famous for being the best in all Korea. This tale begins with Yangsook admiring her vision of heaven, a picture of children playing in a peach orchard, when she is suddenly summoned by her grandmother. A heavy rain storm hits and she investigates to find beautiful peaches coming down from the sky—it is raining peaches. Surprised by the good fortune of being bestowed so many expensive juicy peaches, Yangsook and her family members feast on as many peaches as they can. Friends and neighbors join in to fish for more peaches, however, Yangsook is soon troubled by the thought of the poor farmers who lost their harvest. She decides that the children must help them.

This simple yet appealing story shows how children can make a difference. It is an excellent book for beginning to take on the perspective of others and in this case discuss how one person’s fortune may be another’s misfortune. The author’s clear message makes it accessible to young children and opens up possibilities for discussion about how they might make a difference.

Yangsook Choi’s beautifully crafted illustrations enhance the readers’ enjoyment of the story. In the author’s note, Choi expands upon the significance of the peach in Korean culture. Korean readers have commented on the accuracy with which she writes about and illustrates Korean culture and thinking. The traditional home, clothing and representation of Koreans in the story are authentic and appealing. Choi also depicts the warmhearted nature of Korean people by showing their concern for one another. This book could be used as an example of a personal narrative to encourage children to write their own stories. It can also be read in an author’s study of Choi. Some of her other notable books, which she has written and illustrated, include The Name Jar (2001), a story of moving to another culture; her first book, a Korean Folktale, similar to Little Red Riding Hood, The Sun and Moon (1997); and recently, Behind the Mask (2006).

Michele Ebersole, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI