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Archer's Quest Hardcover – June 12, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7 Park weaves Korean history and lore into a time-travel fantasy. Sixth-grader Kevin is home alone in Dorchester, NY, when an arrow flies through the air, pinning his baseball cap to the wall. Imagine his surprise to find a man claiming to be Koh Chu-mong, the Great Archer from a Korean kingdom in the first century B.C., in his bedroom. Archer claims to have fallen off the tiger he was riding, and has somehow landed in Kevin's bedroom. Much humor comes from the clash of the ancient and the modern. Archer is amazed and at times frightened by cars (surely powered by dragons), telephones, the computer, lights, and even a bed. Kevin, the grandson of Korean immigrants, is an ordinary kid, bored by school, especially history class. He feels that he is very different from his father, a programmer at a local university who loves math and precision. However, the need to get Archer back in time makes Kevin step up to the challenge. He takes the man to the local museum, but that idea doesn't help. A suspenseful trip to the zoo to see the tiger seems promising, but that tiger is from India, not Korea. During their wanderings around town, Archer tells wonderful stories of Korean history and legend. Finally, Kevin uses all his powers of reasoning and deduction to find the solution to Archer's quest to return home. In the process, the boy learns that ordinary people can do extraordinary deeds and comes to appreciate his dad. Although perhaps not as great as previous, award-winning books by this author, this tender title is still most worthy of attention. Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 4-7. Twelve-year-old Kevin is shocked when Chu-mong, legendary ruler of ancient Korea, suddenly arrives with his bow and arrows in Kevin's room in Dorchester, New York. But Kevin is drawn to the brave stranger, who must return home before the Year of the Tiger ends the next day and history is changed forever. Park's A Single Shard, the 2002 Newbery Medal Book, is set in historic Korea, and her recent novel Project Mulberry (2004) is set in a contemporary Chicago suburb. This time she weaves together past and present. Although she works in too much informational content into the story--Korean history, math, folklore, the Chinese Zodiac, and more--the time travel in reverse is fun, especially Kevin's attempts to explain computers, cars, telephones, and zoos to the bewildered ruler. At the same time, the cool teen who "couldn't care less about his heritage" does learn to respect the old ways, and readers caught up in the adventure will want to find out more about the culture; Park's notes at the end of the book will help. Children who liked Grace Lin's The Year of the Dog (2006) about a Taiwanese girl, and are ready for a more difficult story, might enjoy this novel as well. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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You think your day's been crummy? You've got nothing on Kevin. Sure, today was a half-day at school, but is he able to appreciate it? Not a chance. The year is 1999 and Kevin is bored out of his skull with only a bouncy ball to keep him company. Next thing you know Kevin's cap is hanging from an arrow sticking straight out of the wall. The arrow, in turn, belongs to a very oddly dressed man who is eyeing Kevin suspiciously and has his next arrow aimed at the boy in question. Turns out that the man is the great Korean historical figure Koh Chu-mong. Part Robin Hood part King Arthur, Chu-mong has somehow landed smack dab in Archie's bedroom some 2,054 years into the future. Kevin, may be of Korean descent, but he doesn't sufficiently know his Korean history to know enough about Chu-mong (who requests that he be called Archer, shortened by Kevin to "Archie") to help him back to his own time. Together the two must discover everything they can about Korean history, magic, the Chinese Zodiac, and some basic math before the year of the Tiger is up. And the year ends that very night!
In a way, "Archer's Quest" is a historical novel. Sure it takes place in 1999, but that still places it firmly in the past. Park starts with a particularly interesting situation. You're in your bedroom, bored, and suddenly a hero from the past is looking to put an arrow in your heart. A great start, but a difficult one. Since the story must take place in the course of a single day, and since Kevin is such a realistic character that Park's afraid to ever put him into too much trouble, the story's action is downplayed. The most we get is an encounter with a real tiger, a race from a negligible enemy, and a run across a highway when the traffic has already been stopped. Her "villain" isn't even that villainous. Just misguided. Of course, limiting the action is Park's style. Therefore, if you've a kid who really got into "A Single Shard" or (more logically) "Project Mulberry", they are bound to enjoy this story just as much, if not more.
The concept of a historical or fictional figure bumming around the present isn't new, of course. Everything from "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" to "Inkheart" has used it to their advantage. Where Park diverges from the ordinary is in making her hero a Korean folk-hero. Kids who've never had the opportunity to learn of the adventures of Chu-mong will find much to learn about here. In this way, the book pairs nicely with another recent historical-man-to-whom-folk-tales-have-been-attached character, Dick Whittington, in Alan Armstrong's, "Whittington".
Ever attentive to supporting her stories with fact, Park includes a section on math in this story, while another attends to details involving Chu-mong, tigers, and RIT, and a bit on the zodiac. A Chinese Zodiac is located at the end of the book, and here I had a real problem with the book. Some children's books that discuss the Zodiac do what "Archer's Quest" did here and include each year with the dates ascribed to that year. For example, "The Rooster's Antlers: A Story of the Chinese Zodiac" by Eric A. Kimmel, includes a bunch of dates that fall within different animal years. The book is useful because these dates go a decade or two into the future. "Archer's Quest" on the other hand, stops at February 4, 2000. That's all well and good if the kiddies want to know what animal is ascribed to the year of their birth, but does absolutely no good if they want to know what the current year in the zodiac is. Obviously it stops around 1999 because that's when the story takes place. However, it would be heads and tales more interesting if it bothered to go a little bit into the future. Even if it were just a decade.
None of this is to say that the book doesn't make for a good read. Linda Sue Park is first and foremost a premier children's book author and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I just wish that this book had gotten a little more work done on it. It reads beautifully and will give a lot of enjoyment to some kids with the whole time-travel aspect. For others it will start out well, then peter off into the dull. A nice title but not my favorite Park accomplishment.