Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Year of Impossible Goodbyes

Title: Year of Impossible Goodbyes   
Author: Sook Nyul Choi  
Category: First-Person Account

Topic: World War II, The Cold War, Korea   
Grade Level: 4-9  
Students: A balanced mix of strong readers and struggling or reluctant readers
Rating by: Ann B.

Historically Accurate?
(4) Yes and also includes historical notes, primary sources, etc.*
(3) Yes
(2) A few inaccurate or misleading portrayals
(1) Not a bit
* This is based on the author's own life.

An Engaging Story?
(4) Almost all students will beg to keep reading
(3) Most students will get caught up in the story
(2) Some students will read ahead by mistake
(1) Students will groan when the book is mentioned

Prompts Discussion?
(4) Students will still be talking about it in the hallway
(3) Will prompt discussion about major issues in the past as well as today
(2) Will prompt discussion about the characters and the events in the book
(1) Will not prompt discussion

(4) Everyone - even the most reluctant readers – can get on board
(3) Can be used for a whole class read
(2) Can only be used with a small high-powered reading group
(1) Recommend only to students that love reading

Age Appropriate Content?
 ____Too mature
_X__Just right
____Too simplistic

A Comment from Ann B.:  While the main character is only ten, this book could work in world history classes because the time period it describes is fascinating, though tragic.  It sheds light on a side of World War II that is rarely addressed (the invasion of Korea by Japan,) as well as the realities of the Communist take-over of North Korea that followed.  It could be a great way to  introduce the Cold War and inform a discussion about our relationship with North Korea today.

From the Publisher:
"It is 1945, and courageous ten-year-old Sookan and her family must endure the cruelties of the Japanese military occupying Korea. Police captain Narita does his best to destroy everything of value to the family, but he cannot break their spirit. Sookan's father is with the resistance movement in Manchuria and her older brothers have been sent away to labor camps. Her mother is forced to supervise a sock factory and Sookan herself must wear a uniform and attend a Japanese school.

Then the war ends. Out come the colorful Korean silks and bags of white rice. But Communist Russian troops have taken control of North Korea and once again the family is suppressed. Sookan and her family know their only hope for freedom lies in a dangerous escape to Americancontrolled South Korea.

Here is the incredible story of one family's love for each other and their determination to risk everything to find freedom."

Link to Reviews on Amazon
Link to Teacher's Guide from Holt, Rinehart, and Winston
Preview the book at Google Books
Buy this book from your local bookstore via Indie Bound

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