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.