Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Girls Under House Arrest

Girls under virtual house arrest, just because they are girls?  That was the case in 17th century Korea for girls from noble families.  Those girls left their homes only once, when they married. Otherwise, they were literally confined to a life of domesticity, without even the pleasures of reading or painting to entertain them.

Such is the fate of Jade Blossom, the heroine of Seesaw Girl by Newbery-award-winning author Linda Sue Park.  Jade tries her best to thwart these rules, but their institutional intransigence proves too much for her.  Jade does manage to sneak outside, in a desperate attempt to see her beloved and now-married aunt (close enough in age to be a cousin or sibling) but with results that ensure she will not do so again.  Instead, she is left to rely on her brother's descriptions of the outside world and what she manages to glimpse as she jumps on a seesaw that propels her high enough to see beyond the walls of her home. This chapter book reminds me of the picture book Ruby's Wish, which I discuss here, but without the happy ending.  Unlike Ruby, who had a male advocate in her grandfather, Jade has no one to help her change or break the rules. Although her father, mother, and brother seem sympathetic and understanding of her curiosity (her punishment for sneaking out is much less harsh than expected), they are either not willing or able to go further.  Jade resigns herself to her fate, saying, as her mother did before her, "It's not enough... But I will learn to make it enough." Nonetheless, we are left with the impression that Jade's irrepressible spirit is not entirely quashed.

This book, like Rickshaw Girl, is a great introduction to another society and to the constraints place upon girls and women.  But do not mistake it for an early reader. Despite its brevity (86 pages) and the fact that it has illustrations (which are lovely and convey Jade's yearning and wistfulness in black-and-white and sepia tones), it tackles serious issues and has moderately difficult vocabulary.


  1. Sounds like a really interesting book and like one that I have just read on modern day Saudi Arabia.

  2. This book looks really interesting. The illustrations are beautiful.

  3. I really liked Rickshaw Girl, but this one is new for me. Thanks for sharing at The Children's Bookshelf.