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From The Asian Reporter, V18, #6 (February 5, 2008), page 17.

Everything is new, from head to toe

New Clothes for New Year’s Day

By Hyun-Joo Bae

Kane/Miller, 2007

Hardcover, 32 pages, $15.95

By Josephine Bridges

Up even before the sun, a girl wearing white leans on her windowsill and looks out at a pale tree, a brown wooden gate, and a grey building beyond the yard. It’s New Year’s Day in Korea, and even the clouds in the sky are new, "But the very best new things of all the new things are … "

"My new skirt and jacket!" The rich crimson of the skirt on the next page catches the reader’s eye as the girl reaches up for it and begins to pull it from its hanger. "I could hardly sleep last night," she confides, then begins to show the reader how she carefully dresses in all her lustrous new clothes, even the "cotton socks with their red-flower embroidery."

The "rainbow-striped jacket" makes its appearance on the far end of the hanger, and the reader sees ornate furniture and wooden boxes with gleaming metal latches in the room where the girl is dressing up for New Year’s Day. She explains that her jacket may be left untied, but she prefers to tie it tightly.

The red and gold hair ribbon is not so easy, but our protagonist is determined, and she wins the struggle. "Time for the flowered shoes, a gift from Father, and the warm, furry vest with the gold decorations. Plus a special winter hat, to help keep warm." By now the pages are a riot of color, and all the girl needs is "a charm and a lucky bag on the jacket string."

"We start the year with new things. New things, for the year-older me. Time to go … oh!" Yes, you guessed it, there’s one more new thing, a surprise.

Take a look at the very last pages, and you’ll learn that "Koreans do not count age on their birthdays, but on New Year’s Day." They have special rice cake soup for breakfast, and after eating it, turn one year older. "Of all the new clothes worn on New Year’s Day, those worn by children are especially beautiful," the author tells us. On the facing page are names and descriptions of all the elements of the girl’s outfit.

The author thoughtfully points out that although the girl’s family is "wealthy enough to provide a charm and a pair of flower-embroidered shoes," not everyone’s clothes are this fancy. What’s important is "the maker’s wish for the wearer to forget unhappy events of the previous year and to have a Happy New Year, and the wearer’s resolution to be a better person in the New Year."

So may we all.

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books