The Legend of Hong Kil Dong book cover image

The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea

  • 895

Written and illustrated by: Anne Sibley O’Brien

Magic, mystery, and honor—Hong Kil Dong is a leader for all people.

Hong Kil Dong is the low-born son of a yanban (noble) father. His mother is a commoner, so Kil Dong cannot be acknowledged as his father’s son, inherit wealth, or serve his country as a nobleman. Suffering further injustice, Kil Dong becomes the target of a plot against his life. Armed with spirit, intelligence, and talent, Kil Dong escapes to the mountains where he studies with a mysterious monk to discover his fate. Kil Dong masters the martial arts, sword play, magic, and the wisdom of the Book of Changes. Still he is not accepted by his father. How will Kil Dong become the man he is meant to be?

Young readers intrigued by graphic novels and the martial arts code of honor will be amazed at The Legend of Hong Kil Dong—an ancient Robin Hood tale of Korea. Based on a seventeenth-century novel—the first story ever written in the Korean language— Kil Dong’s adventures with bandits, assassins, and the wise king Se Jong will open young minds to an ancient culture in this modern form of storytelling.

Anne Sibley O’Brien’s action-packed illustrations capture the imagination and make this unique story one to be read and re-told over and over—as it has been through the ages.

Backmatter details the author’s creative process and includes notes about fifteenth-century Korean culture and society.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Anne Sibley O’Brien, author and illustrator

Anne Sibley O’Brien is a writer, illustrator, and performer who grew up bilingual and bicultural in South Korea. She has illustrated more than 20 picture books, including the Jamaica books (Houghton Mifflin) by Juanita Havill and the Talking Walls books (Tilbury House) by Margy Burns Knight. This is her first graphic novel and her first book for Charlesbridge. Anne lives on an island in Maine with her husband and her cat.

Read more about Anne Sibley O’Brien.

Awards & Honors:

  • Booklist's Top Ten Graphic Novels for Youth, 2007
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year (Outstanding merit), 2007
  • Bookbuilders of Boston New England Book Show Winner, 2007
  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature - Picture Book category, 2007
  • New York Book Festival - Honorable Mention, 2007
  • Global Korea Award, 2007
  • Aesop Prize, 2007
  • Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee, 2008–2009

Editorial Reviews:

School Library Journal

While 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. – Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library


This 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. – Kat Kan


ISBN: 978-1-58089-303-9

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-044-7
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 9-12
Page count: 48
10 x 8

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