Would you make a deal with a magical tiger? This uplifting story brings brings Korean folklore to life as a girl goes on a quest to unlock the power of stories and save her grandmother.
Some stories refuse to stay bottled up...
When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni's Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now they want it back. And when one of the tigers approaches Lily with a deal--return what her grandmother stole in exchange for Halmoni's health--Lily is tempted to agree. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice...and the courage to face a tiger.
Tae Keller, the award-winning author of The Science of Breakable Things, shares a sparkling tale about the power of stories and the magic of family. Think Walk Two Moons meets Where the Mountain Meets the Moon!
A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family’s past and the strength of her own voice. For many years, Lily’s Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly white community. When Lily, her sister, Sam—both biracial, Korean and white—and their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn’t mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture. Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14)
Copyright 2019 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission.
Grades 3-6. If stories were written in the stars and guarded by tigers, this wondrous tale would be one of the brightest. Lily is happy when she, her mom, and sister, Sam, move, because it means they will spend more time with their grandmother, their halmoni, whose life is full of magic. Halmoni has always told beautiful stories about clever sisters and equally clever tigers—not to be trusted—but Lily soon finds that life is not how she expected it to be. Sam isn’t so happy about the move, and worse, Halmoni is very sick, so when a tiger appears to Lily, offering her a deal, she thinks it could be what saves her grandmother. Lily’s magical-realist world, rooted in Korean folklore, will envelop readers as she deals with growing up and—at times—apart from her sister, finding new friends, and coping with her grandmother's illness. Keller’s characters—from Halmoni, who dresses up to go grocery shopping, to Sam, who hides her own heartbreaks—will have readers wishing they were real. Every chapter is filled with a richness and magic that demands every word be treasured, a heartfelt reminder of the wonder and beauty in our everyday lives. Readers young and old will want to trap this story in a jar forever.
Copyright 2019 Booklist, LLC Used with permission.
Making deals with talking tigers was the one thing that biracial Lily's glamorous Korean grandmother, Halmoni, warned her never to do. Yet when Halmoni falls ill, a magical tiger offers Lily an ultimatum: recover the stories that Halmoni stole years ago, or lose her forever. Keller weaves Korean folk tradition with warm scenes of Korean-American domesticity--preparing food for ancestral spirits, late night snacking on kimchi. The result is a story that seamlessly transitions from the mundane to the magical, never jarring when Lily's contemporary America is sporadically replaced with a mythical land of sky gods and tiger girls. Beyond the magical elements, a diverse cast of characters populate Lily's world--her sullen older sister, Sam; her widowed mother; the kind library staff; and Ricky, a new friend with more than one family secret. While the pacing is slow, the characters' development feels authentic and well drawn. Keller's (The Science of Breakable Things) #OwnVoices journey through Korean mythology begins with a fantastical quest and slowly transforms into a tale about letting go and the immortality that story can allow. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Gr 4-7--Lily has always loved her halmoni's stories; Korean folktales that begin, "long, long ago, when tiger walked like a man." But Lily never expected to encounter the fierce magical tiger in her sick grandmother's basement, or to strike a deal to heal Halmoni by releasing the powerful stories she stole as a young woman. Keller illuminates Lily's desperation to heal Halmoni and bring her family together through the tiger stories interspersed throughout the book; stories of heroism and self-sacrifice, of sisterhood and bravery. Yet the book's greatest strength is in its complex human characters, from Halmoni whose traumatic immigration story spurs her to unite her community through kindness and herbal remedies, to Lily's prickly older sister Sam, whose grief and fear stirred up by Halmoni's illness exists alongside a budding romance with a new girlfriend. Lily worries about her invisibility and living up to the "quiet Asian girl" stereotype she hates, but she doesn't know how else to cope with her volatile teenage sister or her mother's need to pretend that everything is okay, despite the weight of family trauma past and present. Keller weaves ancient folklore with Korean history through contemporary magical realism. She calls on the power of stories to bring families and communities together and the ability to heal by speaking to their pasts. VERDICT This deeply moving book is a must-purchase for all collections, showcasing vulnerable and mythic storytelling in the vein of Erin Entrada Kelly and Kacen Callender.--Molly Saunders, Manatee County Public Libraries, Bradenton, FLCopyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.