The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho

A breathtaking picture e book featuring a Korean woman and her haenyeo (unfastened diving) grandmother approximately intergenerational bonds, locating courage within the face of fear, and connecting with our herbal world.Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean girls have finished so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and swish as mermaids. To deliver her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices conserving her breath while they do the dishes. And while Grandma fits up for her subsequent dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to realize the ocean’s many gifts.Tina Cho’s The Ocean Calls, with luminous illustrations with the aid of muralist Jess X. Snow, is a classic inside the making.


Journey under the ocean in The Ocean Calls and discover the story of South Korea’s haenyeo.

Dayeon’s grandma is sort of a mermaid, exploring the ocean’s depths without an oxygen tank, then bringing abalones, octopus and other creatures to the surface. For Grandma and her fellow haenyeo, the water is domestic—a home she will train her granddaughter how to find. But being a haenyeo is about more than searching for treasures underneath the waves; it’s a culture that is going back loads of years. In the 1600s, South Korean ladies whose husbands were away inside the military took at the project of collecting the king’s annual tribute of abalone. In 2016, the women regarded as “Korea’s granny mermaids” have been located on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Author Tina Cho writes with clear reverence for the haenyeo and narrates with resonant simplicity and honesty. She infuses Dayeon’s fictional story with details about the haenyeo lifestyle and manner of life. We see the haenyeo sporting their gear to the beach, practicing their diving breath, exhaling with a whistling sound referred to as sumbisori and amassing after a dive within the bulteok, a communal space on the beach, their worn faces complete of willpower and pride.

Jess X. Snow’s illustrations are saturated with huge strokes of deep blues and purples, and their use of light is masterful as they shipping readers underneath the waves to see up at the solar at the water’s surface. Washes of color contrast with intricately drawn shells and fish to create a international so encompassing and vivid, I located myself holding my breath with each dive.


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