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The Color of Earth Paperback – Deckle Edge, March 31, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This manhwa—first in a trilogy—chronicling the lives of a single mother and her daughter in rural Korea is a moving and evocative look at love as seen through the eyes of one feeling it for the first time and another who longs to savor it once more. The story follows daughter Ehwa from age seven up as she discovers the physical differences between boys and girls, grows into young womanhood and undergoes her initial confusing experiences with attraction and romance. Ehwa's interest is piqued by a young Buddhist monk, a lad whose interest is mutual but doomed to futility thanks to his faith's strict code of celibacy. Meanwhile, Ehwa's mother, who was widowed at an early age, finds her loneliness soothed by the attentions of an artistic traveling salesman known only as Picture Man. Their relationship later helps Ehwa understand much about the joys of making a romantic connection. This book has no conflict other than that common to youthful competition over boys, but it is a work of great humanity that sucks the reader in. Kim's artwork is stunning, and seldom has a male writer captured the attitudes, emotions and behavior of female characters so believably. (Apr.)
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From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up–A coming-of-age story set in rural Korea a few generations ago. Ehwa is a beautiful young woman who, over a series of vignettes, learns about her body and how men and women make babies. She suffers the pain of her first unrequited love for the boy monk Chung-Myung (who also suffers from his own forbidden love for her). She also finds herself attracted to Sunoo, a rich son of an orchard owner who studies in the city. While Ehwa discovers her own desires, her widowed mother finds love again with a traveling picture salesman. The story revolves around the close relationship the women share as Ehwa becomes her mother's main ally and confidante. The illustrator uses flowers in many of the vignettes to explain aspects of love or to represent his characters and their relationships. While the book begins when Ehwa is seven and only takes her into her early teen years, the nostalgic tone and slow pacing make the title more likely to appeal to older readers. The artwork is beautiful, particularly in Hwa's depiction of the landscape and the two main characters. A good additional purchase for libraries looking for less action-oriented manga/manhwa titles.–Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT END
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Top Customer Reviews
Simply put, THE COLOR OF EARTH can be heartily enjoyed by both female and male readers and it's one hell of a lot better than the vast majority of what's to be had from the glutted manga/manhwa market. This is the first in a trilogy and I can't wait for the next segment. Believe me, I've read a lot of crap, and this in no way qualifies as such. A 10 out of 10.
"The Color of Earth" soars because it accomplishes what so few works can - it appeals equally to adults and children alike. Seeing how Ehwa's mother deals with her questions and awakening in such a tender way, I can't help but admire her and wonder how she has her strength and wisdom. I look forward to the day when my own daughter is old enough to enjoy this work- most parents may want to wait until their child is in their early teens due to the content.
Author Kim Dong Hwa creates beautiful images that work with the narrative to tell this story of two generations of women. While the story may seem simple as it follows Ehwa from young girl to young adult, it is filled with rich symbolism that you will want to savor as you read. Flowers symbolize many things in the story, and the characters are often associating flowers with someone they love. Also, you get the sense that young Ehwa is beginning to bloom just as the flowers do.
As Ehwa grows, she is confused by the changes in her body, and the information she gets from friends about those changes only confuses her more. Mother and daughter don't talk about the changes before they occur, but Ehwa does turn to her mother to answer the questions she has. The narrative provides an interesting way to bring up topics like boys having wet dreams and girls starting their periods. The words are simple, but combined with the images they are powerful. While this book is targeted to a young adult audience and these concepts won't be new to most readers, it can be a jumping off point for further discussion.
I recommend The Color of Earth for mother-daughter book clubs with girls who are 13 or older. In addition to talking about maturing bodies, other points to discuss include first love, Buddhist monks, and life in a small village.