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The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robinhood of Korea (Aesop Prize (Awards)) Hardcover – July 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Series: Aesop Prize (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge; First Edition edition (July 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580893023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580893022
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 8.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,616,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3 Up–While Library of Congress places this book with graphic novels, it stands on its own as a traditional tale. Its possibly the first novel written in the Korean alphabet. OBrien has done her homework, using sources in Korean and English and researching her images to display the culture and time period accurately. Her references are well explained and documented. This is a book that demands that readers engage with the text and the art. Hong Kil Dong is successfully characterized from the beginning, and as he is the son of a maidservant and a powerful minister, it is easy to sympathize with his plight. Unable to be acknowledged or even to refer to his father as such, he must determine his own destiny. It is this pursuit that leads him to learn of the injustices toward common people brought on by corrupt officials. The layout alternates between full-page images that frequently include insets and text bubbles and a traditional frame-by-frame graphic format. This serves to heighten the action. The art, done in heavy black line and mostly pastel watercolors, will appeal to the comic-book crowd, but the story–with its magic, martial arts, and drama–will entice reluctant readers as well as adventure lovers.–Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 3-5. This graphic-novel version of a popular Korean tale has a protagonist who strongly resembles Robin Hood. The son of a powerful minister and his servant, Hong Kil Dong grows up in early-seventeenth-century Korea, denied rights because his mother was a commoner. As a teen, he leaves home and trains in martial arts, swordsmanship, divination, and magic. Because of his incredible physical strength, a group of bandits elects him as leader, and recognizing the injustices that drove them to their crimes, he trains them to become an army that rights wrongs. The full-color art seems more static than most comic-book illustrations, but O'Brien's use of panels adds visual interest to the pages without sacrificing clarity, and her artwork is authentic to the historical period. Source notes are appended. The Robin Hood connection will invite children into this unusual taste of Korean folklore. Kat Kan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Anne Sibley O'Brien ( is a children's book creator who has illustrated thirty-one books, fourteen of which she also wrote. Picture books include JAMAICA'S FIND (Houghton Mifflin) and six other Jamaica books by Juanita Havill; and TALKING WALLS (Tilbury House) and four other titles by Margy Burns Knight , for which they received the 1997 National Education Association Author-Illustrator Human & Civil Rights Award.

O'Brien wrote and illustrated THE LEGEND OF HONG KIL DONG: THE ROBIN HOOD OF KOREA (Charlesbridge), which won the Aesop Award and the Asian-Pacific American Award for Literature, and was named to Booklist's "Top Ten Graphic Novels for Youth 2007." With her son Perry O'Brien, she co-wrote AFTER GANDHI: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE (Charlesbridge), which won the Maine Literary Book Award, and is on IRA Teachers' Choice and NCSS Notables lists.

A number of her books are contemporary portraits of immigrant families in the U.S., including WHAT WILL YOU BE, SARA MEE? (Charlesbridge), the story of a Korean-American first birthday by Kate Aver Avraham; and MOON WATCHERS: SHIRIN'S RAMADAN MIRACLE (Tilbury) by Reza Jalal, which was a finalist for the Maine Book Award. Her latest title, A PATH OF STARS, is a picture book she wrote and illustrated about a Cambodian-American family, commissioned by the Maine Humanities Council.

O'Brien's passion for multiracial, multicultural, and global subjects was kindled by her experience of being raised bilingual and bicultural in South Korea as the daughter of medical missionaries. She reflects on race, culture and children's books at her blog, "Coloring Between the Lines" (

She also performs as a singer and actor and has created a one-woman show entitled "White Lies" (  She lives with her husband on an island in Maine, and is the mother of two grown children.

Customer Reviews

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It is a short book, one that can be enjoyed by children, but one that I also enjoyed myself.
Alain B. Burrese
It is a wonderful way to introduce children and young people to Korean culture through the use of an exciting, traditional tale in graphic novel form.
Brian A. Wilson
This book is written in comic book style with lively, colorful illustrations and an engaging text (in English).

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brian A. Wilson on November 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I first saw this book I was stunned by its beauty and authenticity. The gorgeous colors and graphic art work used in telling the story of this "Robin Hood of Korea" are a feast for the eyes. The author and artist, Anne Sibley O'Brien, grew up in Korea and has drawn upon her knowledge of Korean design, iconography and bold use of primary colors as well Korean history and culture in creating this book. It is a wonderful way to introduce children and young people to Korean culture through the use of an exciting, traditional tale in graphic novel form. My wife is Korean and says that she remembers this story well while growing up in Korea. It is basically the tale of a young man who was the son of a lowly maidservant and a high-born minister who because of his "low birth" was not allowed to acknowledge his father but who went on to become a warrior for justice, defending the common folk who had been cheated and abused by the rich and powerful. His skill in martial arts, magic and divination will most certainly appeal to young readers.

At this Christmas season if you are looking for the perfect gift for that young book-lover, this is the one. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the mind.

At the end of the book Ms. O'Brien provides an illustrated sequence of her own story in Korea as well as some charming illustrations of Korean dress, language and history. One learns about Korea in a most enjoyable way in reading this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Hall on September 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I purchased The Legend of Hong Kil Dong after checking out a copy from the local library. My son, who is almost seven and was born in Korea, loves the colorful illustrations and the engaging legend of the Robin Hood of Korea. The story is long, but just right for a child who loves to see justice prevail and a former "underdog" rise to make everything right. With the wonderful story line and illustrations, this book is a keep-forever for our family.
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Format: Paperback
Robin Hood acquires super powers in this exciting crossover book based on a traditional legend from Korea. Kil Dong is the younger son of a powerful minister to the king but cannot claim his heritage because his mother is not his father's wife, only a maidservant. Jealous scheming among the women of the household (whom the book tactfully refers to as the minister's "companions") causes Kil Dong to leave home at an early age.
Studying with a mountain sage, he masters not only literary pursuits but also martial arts, swordplay, the wisdom of the I Ching, and the uses of magic. Still not welcome at home, he next falls in with a band of outlaws, honest men who have been displaced through the oppressive practices of government officials. Thus is born the Robin Hood of Korea.
The graphic novel format is ideal for this rousing and wide-ranging adventure. The basic layout is based on boxes with speech balloons familiar from newspaper comic pages, but O'Brien varies this format with insets, landscapes, and the occasional dragon. In one inspired spread, the action boxes showing simultaneous events in eight provinces are placed across a background map of Korea.
The book appears to be a labor of love by O'Brien, an American who grew up bilingual and bicultural in South Korea. The narrative is the result of careful research, and author's notes at the end provide fascinating additional cultural and biographical information. The volume itself is a work of art. Even the endpapers are detailed, reproducing an archaic Korean woodblock edition of the legend.
After battling injustice and righting wrongs throughout seventeenth-century Korea, Hong Kil Dong ultimately finds and embraces his destiny. Readers will rejoice at the magical ending, even as they wish for the adventure to continue.
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