Monday, June 12, 2023

Sora's Seashells - a review 6.12.23

 A beautiful intergenerational story that helps young readers understand gifts and giving from the heart.

Sora's Seashells by Helena Ku Rhee
Sora's Seashells
written by Helena Ku Rhee
illustrated by: Stella Lim with Ji-Hyuk Kim
published by Candlewick Press

Summary:  Young Sora is at the beach with her Halmoni, who is visiting Sora and family.  Sora and Halmoni visit the beach to collect shells.  Upon leaving, Sora watches Halmoni leave a gift - a perfect shell they had found - on a bench for someone to find.  Sora is confused why they would leave such a perfect shell for someone else.  Halmoni explains that "It's a gift... for anyone who sees its beauty."  Sora ponders this for some time.  Eventually Halmoni returns to South Korea and Sora starts kindergarten.  At school, Sora is teased for her name being different and she is bothered by it.  But eventually, she receives even worse news, Halmoni has passed away.  Sora's grief is evident and she goes between sadness and anger and even mixes feelings between Halmoni's passing and what has been happening to her at school.  Once her parents hear what has been happening at school, they explain the meaning of her name - in Korean, her name means "seashell".  Sora learns that it was Halmoni's idea to name her that because "a perfect shell is like receiving a wonderful gift."  Sora and her parents return to the beach and Sora collects more shells.  She brings them to school and explains to the other students the meaning of her name.  Sora passes out a seashell to each classmate, including the ones who had been teasing her.  The students have a new understanding of her name and give her compliments.  The story ends full circle with Sora leaving the final shell on the bench for a gift.

My thoughts:  This is such a beautiful story.  I think it will be hard for any reader to finish this story without their heart growing just a little bigger.  I love the inter-generational storyline and seeing how close Sora and Halmoni are, even though they live far away.  I did not know Halmoni was going to pass, which took me a bit by surprise.  Having lost my grandmother this past year, that part hit me kind of hard!  But I love that Halmoni's wise words about gifts and the beauty of them lives on within Sora.  I think the idea of gifts is a great topic to explore with youngsters today.  It's so easy to think about gifts as being wants instead of the idea that gifts are something we share and pass on to make the heart happy in other ways.
This story also discusses the way children can handle an idea when it's something different or uncommon.  Too often when children see something that is different, in this case a name, the initial reaction is to tease and laugh.  Unfortunately this really is something that has to be addressed in school and to teach youngsters how to appreciate the unknown instead of just reacting to a difference.  I love how the author connected Sora's name to the bigger idea of the story.
The illustrations in this book are stunning.  The soft watercolors evoke emotion throughout the story and the ocean pictures even create movement.  They really stand out throughout the reading of the book.

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy!

I have no doubts you'll want a copy of this book for your library!  Thanks to Candlewick Publishers, I have a copy to giveaway (open to US and Canadian addresses).  Enter soon, the winner will be drawn June 20th.  Get more entries on my Instagram account - @readingthroughtheages_

Let's get social!  Find everyone:


Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media 

Candlewick: @candlewickpress 

Helena Ku Rhee: @helenakurhee 

Stella Lim: @stellalim_art

Ji-Hyuk Kim: @ji_hyukkim

me: @readingthroughtheages_


Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media 

Candlewick: @CandlewickPressBooks

Helena Ku Rhee: @HelenaKuRhee


Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Candlewick: @Candlewick

Helena Ku Rhee: @HelenaRhee

Stella Lim: @StellaLim_art

Ji-Hyuk Kim: @hanuol

me: @knott.michele


Candlewick: @candlewickpress

me: @readingthroughtheages