Sun-hee and her older brother Tae-yul are proud of their Korean heritage. Yet they live their lives under Japanese occupation. All students must read and write in Japanese and no one can fly the Korean flag. Hardest of all is when the Japanese Emperor forces all Koreans to take Japanese names. Sun-hee and Tae-yul become Keoko and Nobuo. Korea is torn apart by their Japanese invaders during World War II. Everyone must help with war preparations, but it doesn’t mean they are willing to defend Japan. Tae-yul is about to risk his life to help his family, while Sun-hee stays home guarding life-and-death secrets.
Description taken from Goodreads.
Out of the books about war and siblings and family, and out of all of Linda Sue Park’s books, WHEN MY NAME WAS KEOKO stands out. Sure, this probably will not be the most heartbreaking book you’ve ever read in your entire life, especially if you’re an adult, but if you’re looking for Korean-American (or just Asian) lit, or something that Asian kids can relate to more personally than a book like MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD, then this is your story.
WHEN MY NAME WAS KEOKO talks a lot about family life, culture and values. I loved getting to know Sun-hee and Tae-yul. For those of you wondering, this definitely reads like a middle-grade, children’s book. It would be perfect for kids maybe as young as ten or eleven, to max ages twelve to thirteen. Thirteen would probably be too old.
All in all, I would have to admit this book doesn’t have the same effect on me that it did even just a few years back. This would be a great story to start with when talking about war, victims, relationships and Asian-American studies. For those reasons, I loved this book, but for older readers I would go with a different read. For tweens, perfect. 3.5 stars.
pg count for the paperback: 208