Book Review: Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell

goyangi means cat

Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell, illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

When Soo Min joins her new American family from Korea, she doesn’t know any English at all.  Everything was strange and new, except for Goyangi, the cat.  Soo Min and Goyangi were friends from the start, with Goyangi curling up on her bed and comforting her in the middle of the night.  One morning, Goyangi escaped out the door.  Soo Min noticed at breakfast that Goyangi was gone.  She and her new mother called and called for the cat, but he did not return.  Back home after their search, Soo Min burst into tears.  She cried for losing Goyangi and also for her lost homeland.  Eventually, Soo Min fell asleep.  And when she awoke, her new father had come home along with someone else…

McDonnell, who is herself the mother of two Korean-born children, has captured the first days of international adoption with a gentleness and a deep understanding.  The focus of the book is Soo Min rather than the techniques her parents use to reach her.  Soo Min is given the space in the book to explore her new family and land without expectations.  The use of the cat as a bridge between cultures is a natural one, as is the deep connection that Soo Min finds with her feline friend.  The entire book has a sense of reality and lack of excess drama, which is very welcome here.

The illustrations are remarkable.  They are an appealing mix of collage, patterns, and softness.  At the same time, they play with line and language.  The cat’s fur is done in swirls, as you can see in the cover image above.  Lines are used throughout the illustrations, tying them visually together in a very subtle way.  Language is brought in with Korean words worked into the illustrations, again a bridge is formed in a visual way.

Highly recommended, this is one of the best books about international adoption I’ve seen.  The focus on the child’s point of view and its quality make it exceptional.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Also reviewed by Kiss the Book.

Book Review: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Released September 13, 2011.

This second book, following his award-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is just as magnificent and haunting.  Here there are two stories, set 50 years apart.  In 1977, Ben has grown up along the shores of Gunflint Lake, Minnesota.  His dreams are filled with wolves chasing him, but he doesn’t know why.  His mother recently died and when he goes back to their home, a freak accident causes him to lose his hearing.  But just before the accident, he uncovers what may be a clue to his father’s identity.  The picture section of the book is the story of Rose in 1927.  She is deaf and refuses to be cooped up in her house and protected.  She has built a city of paper around her room and manages to sneak away to New York City.  As both children are drawn to New York, their stories come closer together and eventually become one.

Selznick has once again created a story that only he could tell.  His illustrations, done in line drawings, read cinematically, visually telling part of the story.  Here they perfectly capture deafness, offering readers a way of “reading” a book in pure silence without words.  It is a beautiful experience that is tangible and breathtaking.

Selznick takes readers on a journey here, because of the intertwining nature of the book, they must place themselves in his hands and simply trust.  Their trust will be rewarded as the stories come together with a click as the pieces meet.

The story also brings together divergent subjects into a whole.  The combination of the history of museums, silent film changing to sound, Deaf culture, and families would seem to be too many themes for any book to contain.  In Selznick’s hands, they are all ingredients in a satisfying recipe, each one adding flavor and depth that is uniquely theirs but none of them overwhelming the others.  It is a dance of balance that Selznick achieves effortlessly.

Highly recommended, this is a book that all fans of Hugo Cabret will want to get their hands on.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

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