The Kite Fighters
Author: Linda Sue Park
publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Competently read by Norm Lee
Linda Sue Park is a Newbery medal winner, which would normally turn me right off reading anything by her, but I needed a novel with a title starting with 'K' for my December A to B review conceit, and this was ideal. In the end I used another novel to represent K, but I still wanted to review this one.
It's a really short book (only 3 CDs in the audio version to which I listened) written for middle-graders, and it's about two brothers, Lee Young-Sup, and Lee Kee-Sup who lived in old Korea, in an era of a boy king.
The brothers have the usual fraternal rivalry, and Young-Sup is a bit jealous. He's the kid brother (as perhaps his name was meant to imply), and Kee-Sup has just been capped - which unlike in soccer and cricket, means he's officially become a man - and his "baby brother" must now show him due respect as he would an elder or an authority figure. Suddenly gone are the days of their care-free childhood.
One thing they do both agree on is the beauty and majesty of kites (and I use that penultimate noun advisedly - read on!). Young-Sip manages to make a deal with the local kite shop owner and gets himself a reel of silk - a strong tie for his kite - to which he adds his own home-made flyer. All he wanted was to have a kite like his brother did, but neither of them realized they were being watched by the king himself. Soon they have a commission to create a kite for the young king, but neither the boys nor the king realize where this will lead or what will happen at the annual kite fighting contest.
Like I said, normally I avoid like the plague any novel which has (or in this case which has a writer who has) anything to do with medals, but this particular novel was entertaining reading. It was charming and innocent, but interesting and inventive.
Normally I would rail against this obsession with respect - which must be given to people regardless of whether they've earned it? In this case it's set in the past, and while it's still not right, it is accurate, so it's not a problem.
The same thing applies to this nonsense (to put it politely!) of royal privilege - that someone, purely through accident of birth, is poor, and someone else is privileged above all others or no better reason? Nonsense! It made me irritated that the king demanded, and as a result these boys were, and at their own expense, giving-up their resources and time, but again this is the way things were - and still are in all-too-many places, so I can't down-grade it for that!
Overall, I rated it highly. It was interesting, especially since I'm not from that culture. It was also well-written, and at one point I almost felt that if for no other reason, I should rate it a worthy read just for this one phrase used to describe someone who looked sad: "Your face is like a month of rain"! I loved it!