We’re back with our eighth selection for CPI Medal Mania! As previously mentioned, once a week we will be sharing a title with you we feel is destined for literary award greatness and possibly the Newbery medal and/or honor!
Newbery Prediction #8: Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee
Publication Date: 07/21/2020
Publisher: Holiday House
Two children must escape North Korea on their own in this harrowing novel based on a true story.
North Korea. December, 1950.
Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don’t trust your neighbors. Don’t speak your mind. You are being watched.
But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos-so war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk for weeks from their tiny northern village to the South Korean city of Busan-if they can avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.
But they can’t. And when an incendiary bombing breaks the family apart, Sora and her little brother Young must get to South Korea on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?
Based on the incredible true experience of the author’s mother as a refugee during the Korean War, Brother’s Keeper offers readers a view into a vanished world and a closed nation.
Why have we chosen this title?
There are several reasons as to why Brother’s Keeper is truly a remarkable, must-have read for your shelves. So much so that we have decided to make a list as to why we love this particular book (it’s what we do best). Let us break it down for you:
The Setting: Set in North Korea in 1950, off the bat you are immersed into a world that frankly is not covered enough when it comes to middle grade historical fiction. You immediately meet and understand Sora, the twelve-year old female protagonist that is about to embark on one of the most treacherous and difficult journeys she will have to make.
The Culture: Author, Julie Lee, has done an incredible job inviting the reader in to an authentic Korean home, family and setting. Inspired by her own mother as a refugee during the Korean War, Lee has done a truly remarkable job of painting such an incredible picture. You are at the table with Sora and her family, you can smell the Kimchi and the food, the comfort of Sora’s home before things get worse. You can feel the anxiety and panic, the paranoia that sets in when they are concerned about the goings-on of their trusted neighbors.
The History: While sure, this can be covered in the setting. We felt calling out the history here was essential. There are not a ton of middle grade books about the Korean War. As we mentioned, this book was inspired by the author’s mother’s journey and the care and authenticity in which it was handled is truly special and deserves to be noted.
The Journey: The Journey that Sora and her family must go on after the war begins will keep you turning page after page. Just when you thought they were safe on their way to South Korea, the unthinkable happens and now it is up to Sora to get herself and her younger brother Young to South Korea all on their own. A 12-year-old and an 8-year-old. Walking the hundreds of miles from North Korea to South Korea. In a warzone. In WINTER. Your heart breaks for Sora as you walk each step along side her, as she encounters strangers, frostbite, hunger and so much more.
Overall, this is truly a remarkable read that shockingly has not made it on to more blogs and lists but we felt we could not leave this one behind. IT IS TOO GOOD.
Did we mention that this is Julie Lee’s first book?
We cannot wait for more!!
Also, it is an excellent audiobook.