When Spring Comes to the DMZ (Coming in 2019)

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Korea’s demilitarized zone has become an amazing accidental nature preserve that gives hope for a brighter future for a divided land.

This unique picture book invites young readers into the natural beauty of the DMZ, where salmon, spotted seals, and mountain goats freely follow the seasons and raise their families in this 2.5-mile-wide, 150-mile-long corridor where no human may tread. But the vivid seasonal flora and fauna are framed by ever-present rusty razor wire, warning signs, and locked gates―and regularly interrupted by military exercises that continue decades after a 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War established the DMZ.

Creator Uk-Bae Lee’s lively paintings juxtapose these realities, planting in children the dream of a peaceful world without war and barriers, where separated families meet again and live together happily in harmony with their environment. Lee shows the DMZ through the eyes of a grandfather who returns each year to look out over his beloved former lands, waiting for the day when he can return. In a surprise foldout panorama at the end of the book the grandfather, tired of waiting, dreams of taking his grandson by the hand, flinging back the locked gates, and walking again on the land he loves to find his long-lost friends.

When Spring Comes to the DMZ helps introduce children to the unfinished history of the Korean Peninsula playing out on the nightly news, and may well spark discussions about other walls, from Texas to Gaza.--from the publisher

40 pages                            978-0874869729                         Ages 5-9

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The beautiful paintings in this book show the variety of wildlife that has made the DMZ into a place of abundant animal life. Scenes from the changing seasons of the year include salmon swimming upstream to spawn, mountain goats clambering over rocks, and water deer and otters in the river. But readers can also see the fences and troops on each side of the zone, and the rusted pieces of equipment and weapons left behind from the Korean War. A grandfather climbs to the observatory and looks out over the land again and again, then dreams of throwing open the gates and going inside.

The juxtaposition of the animals and their families with the fact that the area is only safe for them because humans from both sides are forbidden to cross is very poignant. Some might see it as something positive coming from that military conflict, but others might sympathize with the grandfather in the story and wish that animals and humans could both exist peacefully in that area without the fences and guards.

This would be useful for comparing/contrasting the types of animals shown in the book with animals from other habitats, or as a followup to a unit on the Korean War.

Recommended by:  Suzanne Costner, School Librarian, Tennessee USA

See more of her recommendations:  https://fveslibrary.blogspot.com/

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