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Bookkeeper’s Choice - Picture Book

 

2021.04.05

 

 

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The writer of Midnight’s Gift says she reinterpreted her thankful feelings toward nature that she got when she was looking at the evening sunset. Saying that she liked the night sky from her childhood, the picture book delivers warm happiness just like the old fairy tale mom would tell us in bed. The colorful obangsaek (five cardinal colors) expressed in hanji (traditional Korean paper handmade from mulberry trees) collage makes us feel thankful towards nature, and the gift shared among the five brothers of light and darkness teaches us the happiness of sharing. The imaginative story of yin and yang, the Five Elements, and obangsaek begins when the light and darkness give birth to five children. They named their children, Dawn, Morning, Day, Evening, and Midnight. While the children were in bed, Time came and laid a present by their side. Dawn, Morning, Day, and Evening all got their present, but there was none for Midnight, for there was only darkness. Midnight was so upset and shed tears. Then, Dawn came by and shared “Tranquility,” the gift he got from Time. Soon, Morning, Day, and Evening also came along and shared their Wind, Light, and colorful Dreams. Midnight was very thankful for the brothers. Midnight is no longer lonely, for there are Tranquility of Dawn, Wind of Morning, Light of Day, and Dream of Evening by its side.
The author’s imagination that expressed the cycle and time of nature in physical beings has been poured into the picture book describing the uniqueness and values of every being in simple beauty. Imagination sometimes magnifies fear, but it can also transform that fear into beauty. Picture book Midnight’s Gift lets children imagine scary darkness as a “beautiful” thing, and feel more familiar with it by thinking about the joyful gift Midnight got from its brothers. Around the time when children recognize that they are different beings from their mom, they develop fear and loneliness about being separated from them. They get scared as they think that everything disappears and nothing exists in the dark, and are sometimes frightened by the shadow created underneath their feet. To those children, Midnight’s Gift is a beautiful picture book that encourages them to have a more happy imagination of darkness through its pictures and letters.

 

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There are many children that are taken care of by their grandparents instead of busy working parents. The grandparents build an affectionate relationship with them, but it would be clueless when it comes to explaining the lamentable moment when they will have to bid eternal farewell as they live in a different flow of time. The cover design of the book depicts a girl holding onto a letter of the title playing with her grandfather, who seems to be displaying a martial art, showing the close, cross-generational relationship between the two.
“There is a fun game that I play with my grandpa that nobody knows. It’s the nose-picking game. Grandpa has big nostrils and giant boogers. I hope I can also have big nostrils and have endless boogers in them, just like him. There are secrets that we only share with each other. It’s because we are really close friends.”
Then, for the first time, the girl found another play that is more exciting than the nose-picking game, which was shaking the front tooth. She wanted to show it to her grandpa, but sadly, he was lying in bed at the hospital. So, she went to the hospital to show off the tooth, but oh my, her grandpa had no teeth at all. The girl said, “You have a giant booger. Do you want to try shaking my tooth? Just for once.” But as the grandpa reached his hand out to her tooth and shook it, it came off, and she burst into tears. She said, “Oh, no. What should I do! I really liked that tooth! You should never part with things that you really like.” Her grandfather consoles her that a new tooth will grow in the place of the old tooth, so it’s not an eternal goodbye. And he explains that she, Minnie, is the new tooth that looks just like him.
The author said that he decided to write the book with the frustration that his young daughter couldn’t have much interaction with her grandfather when he was alive. As a permanent tooth grows in the place of the baby tooth, the book explains that eternal farewell is just another natural part of life.
Children are often kept away from the topic of death. People think that they will forget as they grow up, but if the departed person had a special relationship with the child, the child experiences difficulties related to human relationships as he or she grows up. This book talks about death from the viewpoint of children and teaches them how to lament over it. In the last scene, Minnie attends her grandpa’s funeral and leaves her good memory of him in drawings. Recollecting good memories of deceased loved ones is one of the good ways of coping with grief and loss.

 

 


Written by Choi Moon-Jung (Head of Bookstore Hyangginamu (Juniper Art Studio))

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Choi Moon-Jung (Head of Bookstore Hyangginamu (Juniper Art Studio))

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