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The Firekeeper's Son Hardcover – March 22, 2004

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 3-Park's command of place, characterization, and language is as capable and compelling in this picture book as it is in her novels. Set in 19th-century Korea, this story centers around an actual bonfire signal system. Every night, when Sang-hee's father sees that the ocean is clear of enemies, he climbs the mountain to light his fire, setting in motion a chain reaction of blazes that eventually reaches the peak closest to the palace and assures the king that all is well in the land. When Father breaks his ankle, his son must ascend alone into the darkness with a bucket of burning coals. During a dramatic pause, he contemplates the consequences of inaction and his secret desire to see the king's soldiers. Lyrical prose and deftly realized watercolors and pastels conjure up the troops in a vision linked to the glowing coal clasped in the boy's tongs. In the next scene, a close-up of the last coal illuminates Sang-hee's eyes, his face a study of concentration. Upon the child's descent, his father shares the memory of his own youthful desires and his pride in his son's accomplishment. A sense of inherited mission pervades the conclusion as Sang-hee learns that he, too, is "part of the king's guard." Children will be intrigued by this early form of wireless communication, caught up in the riveting dilemma, and satisfied by the resolution.
Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

K-Gr. 3. Park, who won a Newbery Medal for her novel A Single Shard (2001), tells a picture-book story set in Korea in the early 1800s about a young boy in a remote village who suddenly finds himself serving his country. At sunset Sang-hee's father always climbs the mountain and lights a fire that signals to another firekeeper on the next mountain to light his fire, and so on, all the way to the mountain at the palace of the king, who knows from the fire signals that all is well in the land. Then one evening Sang-hee's father breaks his ankle, and the boy must keep the light burning. Downing's handsome, watercolor-and-pastel double-page pictures personalize the history, showing realistic close-ups of the child, who plays soldiers and dreams of the excitement of battle. In contrast are the panoramic views far across the country as the boy tends the flame that preserves peace from mountain to mountain. Add this to those lighthouse stories about the brave child who must take over for adults. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 490L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; First Edition edition (March 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618133372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618133376
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 10.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,386,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I don't know why I feel this way, but you'd think there would be a lot of Newbery winning children's authors who'd switch their focus from time to time to picture books. And yet, this is not the case. In fact, it's rather rare for someone of Lunda Sue Park's stature to go about writing for children younger than her usual fare. It's almost as if she's slumming. But Park (who won the Newbery for "A Single Shard") has discovered what most winners fail to realize. That a picture book can be every bit as morally complex and intricate as a 230-some page novel. All it takes is excellent writing and an illustrator who knows their stuff. Which makes, "The Firekeeper's Son" a perfect example of a picture book that does everything right and ends up wowing the reader with its intensity.

Sang-hee lives in a small, unassuming, and peaceful village in Korea. One day, his father informs him that their little space is infinitely important (a fact that Sang-hee has a bit of difficulty believing). But his father is absolutely correct. Located beside the sea and just next to the first of a row of mountains, it understood that in the event of a seaward attack by Korea's enemies, this village is the first line of defense. That is why, every night, Sang-hee's father climbs the nearby mountain and lights a fire that can be seen for miles. Then, someone on the next mountain will see that fire and light their own. This continues all the way to the king's palace where, if the king sees the last mountain lit, he'll know that all is well. Of course, if the fire is not lit, the king would immediately send his soldiers out to battle with the enemy. Now this system has gone on for generations, but Sang-hee is not content.
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By Joel Bangilan on January 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Set in Korea, some time in the nineteenth century, a young boy discovers the great responsibility of lighting the bonfires. When Sang Hee and his mother see that his father has not yet lit the bonfire, and see that there is no enemy coming from the sea, the boy takes up a responsibility that has been in the family for generations. He follows the path up the mountain to find his father injured and unable to climb the mountain. His internal conflict is against the temptation of satisfying his curiosity of soldiers versus responsibility. Good judgment outweighs his selfishness and the bonfire is lit. The systematic communication sends the message to the palace that the kingdom is peaceful. Park is an accomplished writer. The narrative is moving and interesting. The radiant colors of Julie Downing are well crafted.
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Format: Hardcover
My 5 year old son was on the edge of the bed in suspence with the story and in fascination by the wonderful pictures that brought the story to life. Great to learn about an old Korean tradition that I think is interesting to all age levels. Once again Julie Downing did such a fabulous job with her illustrations!!!
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Format: Kindle Edition
In Korea, in the early 1800s, four bonfires burned on the top of the mountains. They were a signal of peace to the king. If something were wrong, the fire would not be lit, as a message to the king to send soldiers to help. Lighting the fire was Sang-hee's father's job. One day, he hurt his ankle, so he sent Sang-hee to climb to the top of the mountain to light the fire. The village had been at peace for many years, so Sang-hee had never seen soldiers. He dreamed of seeing them just once. What if he didn't light the fire? If the king thought something was wrong would he send soldiers? What would Sang-hee do...? This was a touching story. Thank you to Linda Sue park and Julie Downing. I enjoy reading it very much.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is so interesting, so informative, and so gorgeous. Also, my kids enjoyed comparing the fires on the mountains to their favorite fantasy, LORD OF THE RINGS. The tie-in made it even batter for them.
Well done, Ms. Park, and while I am here, let me say, KEOKO is my other favorite of yours.
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Format: Hardcover
Linda Sue Park's The Firekeeper's Son is a picture book that tells of life in a Korean village several hundred years ago. At that time fires were lit as signals that all was well. It is an exciting story the pits a young boys dreams for excitement against his duty and responsibility. Julie Downing's illustrations showing traditional Korean village life really bring the past alive.
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Format: Hardcover
A family in a Korean village in the 19th century try to keep a tradition of being firekeepers. A firekeeper is a man who climbs a mountain every night and lights a bonfire to assure the royal palace that invaders are not near. If the fire is not lit, soldiers are sent to defend the sea shore. Korea had a history of invasion, especially by Japan and felt it needed to keep a guard on the sea. The first firekeeper would keep an eye on the sea by day and light a fire by night. Then another villager on another mountain would light a fire by succession until the fires could be seen by a guard at the palace. This was done more than a 100 years in Korea. In this story a young boy helps his father with his job after a crisis and carries on the family's tradition.
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps for centuries, the royal court of Korea kept infomred of invading forces and problems in it eight provinces through a series of bonfires lit from one hilltop to the next. In this story, a young boy and his father live in a seacoast village on the first line of defense for the bonfires. Each night, the boy's father lights a bonfire which is seen by hilltop after hilltop all the way back to the king. But when he in injured, his son must light the fire. But would it not be better to not light it, so that some excitement and soldiers will come to the village? Or does reponsibility win out?
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