Cover image for Every falling star : the true story of how I survived and escaped North Korea
Title:
Every falling star : the true story of how I survived and escaped North Korea
ISBN:
9781419721328
Physical Description:
xv, 314 pages ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
880 L Lexile
Added Author:
Summary:
"Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his 'brothers'; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist"--
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Summary

Summary

Every Falling Star , the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who was forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly recreates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, "his brothers," to daily be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.


Author Notes

Sungju Lee holds a bachelor's of arts degree, majoring in political science and journalism from Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea. Sungju has spoken about his experiences and about current North Korean geo political and social issues across Asia and North America. He lives in South Korea, but is currently studying in Warwick, Coventry, UK until December 2016. Susan Elizabeth McClelland is an author and journalist. Bite of the Mango , her first book, became a worldwide hit and has been published in more than 30 countries and territories, and has won numerous awards.


Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Lee pens his harrowing journey from one of North Korea's city elite to a homeless and hungry vagrant. Lee, an only child, grew up comfortably in the nation's capital of Pyongyang because his father was a well-respected member of the military. Yet with no warning, the boy and his parents were deported to the countryside. Lee, who had known only the strict rituals and decorum of Pyongyang, was initially horrified by life in Gyeong-seong. Mass hunger, public executions, and unemployment were rampant-a stark contrast to the propaganda Lee had been taught his whole life. Forced by starvation, Lee's parents left him in search of commerce or emigration. He fended for himself for almost five years. His struggle is chronicled in a tightly written first-person narrative. Lee would eventually lead a gang of boys who lived by their wiles, stealing just enough to survive. The tension that runs throughout the narrative is somewhat alleviated by the mere existence of the work. Lee provides a summary of the history of Korea and the politics of the famine in North Korea, achieving a great balance between historical context and storytelling. Lee incorporates Korean words throughout the text and defines them with a pronunciation guide in the back matter. VERDICT An excellent inside look at childhood in poverty that will resonate with middle schoolers.-Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

This affecting memoir starts slowly but gains momentum as it highlights a boy's survival and eventual escape from North Korea. The narrative begins with a brief history of 20th-century Korea that helps establish context. Lee enjoyed a privileged childhood in Pyongyang as the son of a respected military officer until his fate changed abruptly at age 10, when his family left for an extended "holiday" in a northern sea town where his parents were forced to work as laborers. Writing with McClelland (Stars Between the Sun and Moon), Lee effectively describes his own trusting ignorance and how he began to understand the dire state of their exile. The strongest section recounts Lee's harrowing life on the streets as he banded together with friends, stealing, begging, borrowing, and fighting to subsist ("Maybe everything had been taken from us, but we still had our word, and that meant something"); deadening their pain with alcohol, smoke, and opium; and mourning lost friends. A testament to resilience, Lee's story pulls back the curtain on life in North Korea. Ages 13-up. Agent: Al Zuckerman, Writers House. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

This is the harrowing story of a boy whose father ran afoul of the North Korean government, resulting in the once-privileged family's banishment during a famine. When Sungju's parents disappear while searching for food, he must survive on the streets. Not many details of children's lives in North Korea have reached us, making this memoir an important, if stiffly written, contribution. Glos. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

Growing up in an elite family in Pyonyang, Lee revered Kim Il-sung and aspired to a career in the military. In Pyonyang, it was easy to believe in Kim Il-sung's message, but when Lee and his family were exiled to the outer reaches of the country, the truth was too hard to ignore. Lee faced famine, poverty, and desolation in his new home, and when his parents disappeared, he was forced into a life in a street gang, stealing food and fighting other gangs of boys in order to survive. With the help of journalist McClelland, Lee recalls his hardscrabble years on the streets of North Korea and offers a firsthand account of the horrendous conditions facing the country's citizens. Perspectives like Lee's are hard to come by, and while the language is occasionally stilted, his experiences in the propaganda-fueled regime and eventual escape are nevertheless riveting. This harrowing tale evokes the same sort of dystopian futures imagined in contemporary YA novels, and it's a chilling reminder that such places exist right now in reality.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2016 Booklist