When author John C. Stickler reached out to me to share his and his wife's book, "Maya and the Turtle: A Korean Fairy Tale,"...

'Maya and the Turtle' and 'Land of Morning Calm' Book Review


When author John C. Stickler reached out to me to share his and his wife's book, "Maya and the Turtle: A Korean Fairy Tale," it planted the seeds of heading to Korea for our next Global Explorers destination. And when I mentioned the idea and he sent me "Land of Morning Calm: Korean Culture Then and Now" as well, I KNEW Korea would be our next destination! So while I finish putting together all the activities and resources for our "trip," here's a glimpse at these two amazing books.

"Maya and the Turtle" is a Korean fairytale written by Soma Han and her husband, John C. Stickler. It tells the story of Maya, a girl who finds a little turtle all alone one day and brings it home to care for it and keep it safe. Many years later, when Maya offers to sacrifice herself to a monstrous centipede in exchange for money to help her ill father, the turtle - who has now grown to an enormous size - in turn sacrifices itself to save Maya. It is a tale of family, love, selflessness, sacrifice, and destiny. The tale was told to Soma by her mother who was told the story by her mother growing up in a small village in Korea. With John's help, Soma translated the tale into English and paired it with her own beautiful watercolor images (seriously, they are amazing!). The story is very well told, something that I know is not always easy to do when you are translating from one language to another. I may have never heard the story told in Korean, but I imagine that this version maintains the essence of the original tale. The new audiobook version is wonderful to listen to as well.

I grew up hearing variations on fairytales by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm in addition to a couple Ukrainian fairytales my mom would tell us. Now, I find it so interesting to read folktales from around the world - it's so fascinating to find strings of commonality in tales told on opposite sides of the country! I've actually just discovered Grace Lin's novels based on Chinese folktales and "Maya and the Turtle" reminded me very much of tales of monstrous magical creatures in Lin's novels. 

"Land of Morning Calm" contains the same beautiful illustrations by Soma Han and delves deep into Korean Culture. I would recommend this book for older elementary students as it really goes into detail about various aspects of Korean culture including dress, food, language, celebrations, and the flag. The book also incorporates various legends and folktales which simply add to the book's charm. If you want a taste of Korean culture, I highly recommend this book. It can be used with younger children, but I would plan on reading only a few pages at a time and mixing it with hands-on activities to maintain their interest. 

Please come back next week for a Global Explorers trip to Korea!