Aekyung’s Dream by Min Paek (Childrens Book Press, 1988) is a wonderfully illustrated book describing a Korean girl’s experiences after moving to the West. In this strange place kids are unfair and mean, and she is left alone and feels isolated. She cannot talk about her problems to even her parents because they work so hard and have their own worries – she does not want to add to their troubles.
Strong and beautiful imagery aside, this book struck me for its honest description of a child on the outside looking in. “I’m Korean not Chinese!” she says to her mother after giving in to her unhappiness. “Didn’t anybody know about Koreans?” she wonders after being teased about her “Chinese” eyes on the playground. How hurtful it is to be misunderstood and ignored. Over time, Aekyung finds a place in her new world to be herself and also a new self who can now speak the same language and find a way to connect through her artwork. A gentle reminder to kids to be sensitive to those who are outwardly different but inwardly very much the same.