Thursday, October 27, 2011

Picture Book: Goyangi Means Cat

This gorgeously illustrated book about adoption and displacement, with a deeper message about the difficulty of adjusting to new environments. Any parent or child who has encountered new situations that are not entirely within their control will find that this book resonates with authentic emotional responses.

Soo Min is adopted as a preschooler from Korea. When her parents bring her home, there is a great deal of learning to be done on both sides. Her parents only know the korean words for bed, eat, rice and house: Soo Min has to teach them what's important to her, and quickly.

She makes a special connection to the cat, goyangi, and is disraught when he is nowhere to be found one day. With his return, Soo Min begins the slow process of integrating her previous life in Korea with her new home and loving family.

This is the kind of book that unfolds with repeated readings, as much of the story is implied in the emotional reactions of the characters. The text is very minimal, and readers will need to exercise their empathetic muscles to imagine the confusion and disruption that Soo Min is feeling in her first few days. The gorgeous art creates a blend of Asian and North American by mixing patterned prints with the warm, soft-realism illustrations: the impression is of a hidden world, and a subtle sens of the exotic permeates the full page spreads. The Korean text echoes the English story, a great touch that underscores the sense of a dual but overlapping reality.

There is rich material for discussion here, and the message about adjusting to a new and unfamiliar environment is relevant to children in all kinds of new situations, not just adoptees. With plenty of opportunity for reflection and gentle discussion, most children will be able to relate to Soo Min's sense of displacement and loss, and take courage from her willingness to start anew with her loving adoptive family.

Ages 2-5
Picture Book
Click here to check out the Port Moody Public Library's catalogue.

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