Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland. Written and illustrated by Sujean Rim. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2017. $23.49 ages 3 and up
I have been sharing other stories of immigrants and refugees in earlier posts. Today, I have an immigration story with a bearish bent. Chee-Kee has just arrived in Bearland, and is not feeling much at home. It is a story from author Sujean Rim's family history. Her parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea, and must surely have suffered the doubts and challenges of a new reality.
"They moved around a bit for various job opportunities, and without another Korean soul in sight, they had a lot to learn on their own. My parents not only looked different and hardly spoke English, but they came with an entirely different set of traditions.", the author pens in her author's note at the back of the book.
The Bearland bears are mostly kind and helpful. Chee-Kee is quick to notice that he is different and is unsure of his place in this new land. He uses chopsticks, wears a sun hat, flies a rectangular kite. It is overwhelming. His parents seem less concerned, wanting to become accustomed to their change of circumstance. They make light of the changes they are facing, using humor to turn aside any insulting remarks. Chee-Kee's adjustment is not so easy. He makes sure that he is often alone.
Then one day a soccer ball gets caught in a tree. It is up to Chee-Kee to fashion a solution ... and he does! It is a most interesting way to get the ball down. He is a hero, and finds acceptance among his peers.
Ms. Rim uses mixed media to create the very appealing and revealing artwork for her newest book. The bears' world is wonderfully crafted, as are her ursine characters. Differences are evident, but charming. The story will surely encourage discussion about being different, about attitudes toward immigrants, and feelings of empathy toward those who are new to our communities.