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Behind the Mask    by Yangsook Choi order for
Behind the Mask
by Yangsook Choi
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Cultures collide in this intriguing picture book about a Korean-American boy and memories of his deceased grandfather. Kimin is daydreaming about Halloween. His mother gives him several old boxes that used to belong to his grandfather - who was a dancer in Korea - telling him that if he looks inside, he might find something useful for Halloween.

Kimin has always been a little uncomfortable around his grandfather's old belongings. Kimin has a not so fond memory of seeing his grandfather face's look rather gruesome. But the next morning, Kimin goes through the mementoes, and sees pictures of dancers wearing face masks. He then finds the mask, or tal, he had seen his grandfather wear, and realizes that it wasn't so scary after all.

So, Kimin decides to wear his grandfather's mask and dance clothing for Halloween, despite his friends' teasing. Soon, all the neighborhood children are intrigued about the story behind the mask, and accompany Kimin to his house, where he proudly shows them his grandfather's memorabilia and introduces them to the history of Korean dance. A special surprise awaits Kimin, which allows him to recapture a feeling of closeness to his late grandfather. (A helpful note at the end explains Korean dance customs.)

While the story is compelling, the well-done illustrations might be a little scary for younger children: the mask is depicted with huge black eyes and giant whiskers coming out of the cheeks and eyebrows. Behind the Mask is, nonetheless, a unique Halloween story.

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