February 21, 2024

Book Review: N Is For North Korea

Trevor Eissler, author of N is for North Korea, is a father with deep concern for his children's education, and places his faith in the schooling system first proposed by Maria Montessori. Montessori education states that children should follow their interests freely and be allowed to explore them fully in order to learn to their full potential. N is for North Korea is a book which aims to tell a story with multiple levels and appeal to various age ranges; the story of a young girl with a fondness for unusual pets (grasshoppers), the story of a girl from a different culture, and a girl who likes adventure. More than this, it is a story which explores some of the harsh facts of our world; separated families, nations in conflict and differing political situations. The story begins with the girl and her two grasshoppers. Her father tells her she has a cousin in  South Korea, but she cannot contact her. Na-young is not sure why. In a seemingly unrelated event, her father brings her a balloon from the Arirang festival. Na-young then proceeds to use the balloon to send a message and gift to her Southern cousin, going through many challenges. Finally, she succeeds and follows the balloon to the DMZ, where she is stopped by soldiers as she watches it fly away.

N is for North Korea is cleverly written for children up to the age of around 10 years old. Young children will love the beautiful illustrations by M. J. Baek (a Korean man whose family escaped from the North). Older children will be taken in by its gripping content which poses a subject which would baffle many adults; how do you reduce weight on a balloon to get it to carry both a message and a gift many miles away? Na-young tries many methods including tying variously weighted objects. She meets many an obstacle such as propaganda billboards and the performers at the Arirang festival, until she must separate her grasshoppers and send one to her cousin in the South tied to the letter “N” for her name.