Park, Linda Sue. Seesaw Girl. Ill. by Jean and Moue-Sien Tseng. New York: Clarion Books, 1999. ISBN: 0395915147
In seventeenth-century Korea, Jade Blossom is confined to her family’s Inner Court where she learns to sew and embroider, do laundry and take care of her family in preparation for the time she will do the same for her future husband. However, Jade is free-spirited. She causes simple mischief for her brother and yearns for the freedom to see the mountains and to see and do all the things the male members of the family do. When Jade’s best friend and cousin, Willow, marries she is determined to see her again. During Jade’s adventure out, she sees and learns so much, but is only more curious about the outside world and is disappointed when her cousin follows custom and won’t see her. Jade is left to find ways to accept her place in an aristocratic family.
Jade, the main character of Seesaw Girl, is vivid and authentic. Readers will quickly like her playfulness and will take up her cause to know more of the world beyond the Inner Court. The average youth of today will have no concept of the world Jade experienced. Much discussion will be necessary to provide connections and understanding of why the plot is happening the way it does. However, the themes of longing and contentment will be clear.
The setting of the home is described in detail, but information about the time is not explicit. Perhaps it is because the protagonist doesn’t really know herself! Readers are left to interpret more about the setting based on the constraints.
Seesaw Girl has a few wonderful black and white illustrations that show period dress and even capture emotion from the story. The author ends with a note explaining Korea’s period of isolation and a bibliography. Both are helpful in filling in details and supporting accuracy of the book.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “The story is full of lively action and vivid descriptions, enhanced by appealing black-and-white paintings to give a clear sense of the period.”
KIRKUS: “The evocative descriptions and Jade’s intensity in creating new ways to learn will capture and hold readers.”
*Use websites to explore Korean culture today. One is www.countryreports.org (a subscription is required).
*Explore the history of women’s rights in the United States. Make connections with Seesaw Girl.
*From the author’s website, http://www.lindasuepark.com/index.html
Take the multiple choice quiz.
Write to the author.
Start a swap journal with a friend. (You write in a notebook – poem, list, short story, whatever and then give it to a friend to add to your entry. They do the same. Keep swapping.)
*Also by Linda Sue Parks
When My Name Was Keoko ISBN: 0440419441. This book will give a picture of life in Korea in the 1940s (as opposed to the 17th century).