Recommended by: Patricia Mahr, ELA/ESL teacher, High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies, Manhattan, United Federation of Teachers member.
Suitable for: Grades 7–12
Why I chose it: This gripping memoir about lost childhood, lost loved ones, lost objects and lost innocence succeeds in inspiring readers as the narrator, Eunsun, takes us back to her brave, 11-year-old self. Interweaving the present and past, the author believes in the power of words to demonstrate that lives matter and that the will to survive pushes one to endure and overcome obstacles.
What I like best: Eunsun reveals the evils of totalitarian life in North Korea: starvation, labor camps, public executions, indoctrination, bribery and fixed elections. Information about the outside world is not allowed. With her mother and sisters, Eunsun embarks on a years-long escape route that leads to homelessness, brutal interrogations, human trafficking, smuggling and adverse physical terrains. Through it all, the author still expresses gratitude for the kindness of strangers; determination to continue her education; and steadfast optimism that the world will pay attention to the plight of her fellow North Koreans.
How teachers can use it: This book is relevant in today’s prominent discussions about refugees and immigrant children. Students can write memoirs using themes such as fitting in, overcoming obstacles, memorable objects and admirable traits. Social Studies students can discuss or write on issues such as totalitarian societies, illegal immigration or refugee crises. They can analyze Korean, Chinese and Mongolian traditions.
About the authors: It took Eunsun Kim and her family nine years to escape. Her father and grandfather had already starved to death before her mother escaped with her three daughters. The author writes under a pseudonym to protect relatives still in North Korea. She now lives in South Korea and works for a human rights organization. Paris-born Sebastien Falletti is the Korean correspondent based in Seoul and Shanghai for the French newspaper Le Figaro. For more, visit http://us.macmillan.com/athousandmilestofreedom/eunsunkim.
"Check it Out" features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians and other educators. Have a recommendation? Send suggestions, along with your name and local union, to firstname.lastname@example.org.