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From The Asian Reporter, V16, #51 (December 19, 2006), page 11.
A lesson from a little one
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten
By Helen Recorvits
Pictures by Gabi Swiatkowska
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006
Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.00
By Josephine Bridges
No wonder Yoon is confused. In My Name is Yoon, Helen Recorvits’s first book about her, the young Korean immigrant was troubled by the look of her name written in the English alphabet she was required to learn in school. But one book later, now that Christmas is coming, Yoon is eager to participate in the holiday activities she is discovering in school. She has only one problem: the very same father and mother who brought her to the United States in the first place are now telling her, "We are Korean. Santa Claus is not our custom," and "We are not a Christmas family."
There are not a lot of books in which children teach their parents valuable lessons, but perhaps Yoon and the Christmas Mitten will start a welcome trend. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to win her mother and father over with everything from a popcorn ball to "a song about a reindeer with a red nose," Yoon decides to celebrate Christmas as best she can on her own, hanging her "most colorful mitten" from the corner of the blanket on her bed. When Yoon’s father reiterates that Christmas is "not the Korean way," Yoon reminds him that he told her, "America is our home now," and asks him a question worthy of her name, which means "Shining Wisdom."
Fortunately, there is plenty of comic relief in a story fraught with conflict. Yoon calls one of her classmates "the freckle boy," and she stomps her feet when she learns she will have to wear her red dress for her family’s New Year’s Day celebration. "The collar pinches, and the buttons pop open!" she protests. Yoon’s a good kid, but she’s also a believable one.
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten ends happily, but the little girl’s transcendent first experience with a candy cane will put a lump in the throats of the most confirmed Grinches and Scrooges. Like Helen Recorvits’s story- telling, Gabi Swiatkowska’s illustrations just get better and better, perfectly depicting the life of a child with a broad intelligence and a rich imagination. All we can ask for now is a new book about Yoon every year for the next couple of decades or so.