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
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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 KanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved