Korean-American Picture Book Teaches Multicultural Lesson

Picture Books That Communicate Across Language Barriers

I am just discovering picture book author Soyung Pak. I wanted to interview her so I tried my usual Google sleuthing but she seems to keep a pretty low social media profile. I’ll let you know if I am able to track her down but so far, no such luck.

I love, love, love her book Sumi’s First Day of School Ever which is a lovely and realistic story of the first day at school for a child who doesn’t speak English. And it had a happy ending which is probably not always the case in real life.

Dear Juno is another gem that, while it focuses on a Korean American experience, it transcends Asian American children’s literature and speaks to anyone who has family in another country that speak another language that our kids do not understand.

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

She reinforces two ideas:

Communicating without words.

The love between grandparents and grandchild transcends languages, continents, and time.

They are simple ideas but true and yet so hard to execute. Reading this story is a gentle nudge to me at least to try a little harder to keep in touch with loved ones that don’t live nearby. Like my cousin in Tokyo who is safe after that huge earthquake and tsunami and hails from Hiroshima where my mother’s ancestors are from. It was my sister that had the email and took the time to track him down. Yep, this is a nice reminder for both me and my kids to connect with a relative despite a language barrier.

Juno is a little boy who receives a letter from his grandmother in Korea. He can’t read Korean and his parents are busy with the usual household chores.  Despite the language barrier, he is able to understand the letter though his mother eventually translates it for him. The letter is special as are the enclosures — a dried flower and a photo of his grandmother and her new cat. And Juno decides to write a letter back. One that will also transcend their language barrier. He makes several drawings and encloses a very large leaf. And so they write each other back and forth … at least until she comes to visit!

To view the book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Joy

    Did you ever contact Soyung Pak? Her books are wonderful and our school district would like to buy more copies of her book Sumi in paperback. If you have any information I would greatly appreciate it.

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