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The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon by Janie Jaehyun Park

Posted by Sherry on 7/12/2013 in Around the World, Folktales, General, Korea, Picture Book Preschool |

Picture Book Around the World: Reading Through Korea I’m working hard on my Picture Book Around the World sequel to Picture Book Preschool, my preschool read aloud curriculum for homeschooling your preschooler or kindergartner. This week at Semicolon, we’re going to be visiting Korea through the medium of a treasure trove of picture books featuring that country and its children.

Wikipedia: “Persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. When eaten fresh they are usually eaten whole like an apple or cut into quarters, though with some varieties it is best to peel the skin first. One way to consume very ripe persimmons, which can have the texture of pudding, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half and eating from the inside out. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy, and the texture is unique. The flesh is very sweet.”

In Korea, according to this folktale that author Janie Park heard from her grandmother, dried persimmons were given to children as a sweet treat. I’ve never tried persimmon dried or any other way. Have you?

The tale itself features a foolish tiger, a crying baby, and a hapless thief. The tiger learn a lesson about pride, the baby gets a treat, and the thief turns into an honest man–all because of a bit of dried persimmon fruit. I’m not sure there is any moral to the story, but it is an incentive to think about tigers, persimmons, babies, and thieves–all subjects I’ve not thought much about, certainly not in conjunction with one another.

The illustrations are a bit oddball for my tastes–an orange tiger with blueish purple stripes? The author/illustrator says she used “gesso, to make a unique texture on the paper, and then . . . acrylics” to create “brilliant, swirling illustrations” in “modern adaptions of the grand Korean artistic tradition.” I’m not enough of an art expert or an expert on Korea to know how successful she has been, but I prefer my pictures more crisp and detailed, less blobby and texturized. Some other reviewer for Booklist said the tiger in Ms. Park’s illustrations was “a coiled calligraphic mass of fear.” “Each to his own.

I did like the story. Unlike many folktales, it’s just scary enough with the tiger, but not really violent or horrific. The tiger is rather silly in his misunderstanding of the interactions between baby and mother, and the thief reforms himself after his accidental wild tiger ride. Preschoolers and primary age children should enjoy this taste of Korean folklore.

Maybe they would also enjoy a Korean persimmon treat, too. You can purchase an 8 oz. bag of dried persimmon slices at Amazon for about $10.00.

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