The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea
Product Code: 93022
Binding Information: Hardback
Ages: 9 - 12
Grade Highest: 7th
Grade Lowest: 4th
Availability: In stock
In this classic tale from early seventeenth-century Korea, Hong Kil Dong, the son of a powerful minister, is not entitled to a birthright because his mother is a commoner. After studying the martial arts, divination, swordplay, the uses of magic, and the wisdom of the I Ching, the Book of Changes, Hong Kil Dong sets off on a quest for his destiny. He leads a band of men to right the injustices shown to the peasants by some powerful and corrupt merchants, ministers, and monks. Hong Kil Dong can then claim his rightful role and become a wise and just leader. This graphic book captures the drama and pageantry of sixteenth-century Korea during the Chosun dynasty and pays tribute to the adventure story that became the first novel written in the Korean language.
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Booklist - July 1, 2006This 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.
Publishers Weekly - July 1, 2006This uniquely formatted tale owes its strength to O'Brien's (the illustrator of the Jamaica books) meticulous research. In multiple-paneled comic-book style, the author/artist retells the story of the illegitimate son of a high Korean official, who is forbidden to address the man as "Father." Young Hong Kil Dong twice runs away, first to the monks in the mountains, then to the countryside-"Perhaps there I will find a clue to my destiny," he tells his mother earnestly-where he stumbles upon a hideaway for bandits. Their misfortunes are more affecting than his own. He decides to train them to fight for justice for the common people. Elements of magic and martial arts mastery combine to produce a story with an unflagging pace. The plot's utter improbability (at one point, Hong Kil Dong uses his mystic powers to conjure up seven straw dolls that look and speak just like him) contrasts with O'Brien's historically faithful renderings of ceremonial silk robes and temple architecture. A series of autobiographical panels shows O'Brien herself discovering the original story ("What a great idea for a children's book!" says a thought balloon above her head); she also includes plenty of other background material.
Baker & Taylor The Cats Meow - May 26, 2006Action, attractive illustrations and goodness, often not elements in a graphic novel, can be found in this new title by Anne Sibley O'Brien. This is a beautifully illustrated version of the Legend of Hong Kil Dong, who uses his magic and skills to assist the needy of Korea. A story of hard knocks, an unfair-fate-turned-around, will keep fans of such mesmerized. This is highly recommended for all middle and older reader level graphic novels.
School Library Journal - September 1, 2006While the Library of Congress places this book with graphic novels, it stands on its own as a traditional tale. It's possibly the first novel written in the Korean alphabet. O'Brien 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.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - October 1, 2006The Korean folk hero, whose exploits have been captured by seventeenth-century writer and social critic Ho Kyun, certainly shares Robin Hood's mission of championing the poor, but his superpowers would make him as much at home in the DC Universe as in Sherwood Forest. The illegitimate son of a government official, Kil Dong is denied a patrimony, and, having been snubbed in his father's house, he seeks his destiny in a mountain monastery where he learns "the secrets of martial arts, swordplay, divination, the wisdom of the I Ching, the Book of Changes, and ... the uses of magic." He survives an assassination attempt, rallies a group of peasants-turned-bandits, and begins his life work of training peasant warriors to resist the oppression of wealthy officials who drain thier subjects of thier livelihood. O'Brien presents the tale in a comic-book format, lavishing her graphics with the same attention to historical accuracy that she accords her text. Kil Dong may be a bit doll-like and sweet-faced for the action-hero set, but his boulder-heaving, high-kicking, magical trickery are a match for any spandexed, muscle-bulging he-man, and his witty ploys will elicit chuckles and cheers. Small typefaced passages from the I Ching run up the sides of each verso, and closing notes, also in graphic-novel-styled frames, offer background on the author's interest in the tale, writer Ho Kyun, emperor Se Jong on whom the fictionalized emperor is based, traditonal costume and symbols, and sources consulted by O'Brien. WOW! -- no, make that OMANAH!
The PlanetEsme Plan - September 28, 2006A graphic novel/picture book chronicles the reversals of fortune of the 17th century Korean hero who fought for the rights of peasants in an unfair feudal system. A great entrée for kids into what was the first novel written in the Korean language! Unique! (8 and up)
Teaching Tolerance - February 1, 2008A graphic novel that catures the drama and pageantry of Korea during the Chosun dynastyand pays tribute to the adventure story that became the first novel written in the Korean language.
Book Links - May 1, 2008Though it resembles a picture book, this full-color title is indeed a graphic novel. O'Brien retells the Korean folktale of Hong Kil Dong, the unrecognized servant son of a nobleman who grows up to fight for the rights of the poor. Raised in Korea, O'Brien thoroughly researched the story and uses an authentic painting style that reflects the early-seventeenth-century Korean setting. With its themes of class structures, cultural traditions, and world history, O'Brien's book is a natural for social studies content areas.
Library Journal - January 7, 2010This remarkable little GN illustrates a Korean folktale with watercolor paintings that, at first glance, appear too tame but which effectively highlight the simple plot without distraction. Our hero, Hong Kil Dong, is persecuted as a child because he is a bastard. When he finally gets fed up, he takes to the hills to study with monks, then with a master. He wanders (yes, just like David Carradine in Kung Fu) until he learns that his destiny is to create an army out of a rabble and fight for good. Equal parts swordfighter, kung fu master (replete with mystical powers), and Robin Hood (they help out common folks at the expense of nobility and the rich), young Kil Dong evolves from an emotionally wrecked boy into the total master of his reality. He is a stoic like few others. Consistent pacing, devotion to accuracy within the 17th-century Korean time period, and a good mix of dialog with inset narration make this especially lucid.