#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Award-Winning Books Early Readers Features Genre International It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Halmoni and Lola: Portrayal of Grandmothers in 2022 Picturebooks from Korea and the Philippines

Grandmothers Rule the World.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date).


For 2022, our reading theme is #DecolonizeBookshelves2022. Essentially, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

My GrandMom (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Gee-eun Lee Translated from Korean by Sophie Bowman
Published by Amazon Crossing Kids (2022)
ISBN: 9781662508257 (ISBN10: 1662508255) Review copy provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

This story is the artist Gee-eun’s tribute to her Halmoni who took care of her when she was growing up and both her parents had to work to earn a living. For most Southeast Asian families, day care is the last option, considered a needless expense when there are relatives with whom one can entrust their young children to.

The story opens with a familiar image above: a young girl bawling her eyes out as her mother leaves for work. Rather than be upset, her grandmother uses a variety of cajoling techniques to calm her down, including food preparation which figured quite prominently throughout the narrative; there were also other visual clues embedded in the page: crayons, cassette recorder, toys, and yes, the cat.

While young Gee-eun eventually forgets her heartache, things came to a head when she needed to bring her Halmoni as a substitute for her parents who could not make it to her school’s Family Sports Day. Her Halmoni convinced her that she used to run very fast: “Speedy Horse” in fact, and that she used to be as strong as an “Ox.”

I love the image above – signifying all the strength of horses and oxen that this young child needed to feel safe, secure, and loved. I especially appreciated the Dedication Page found at the beginning of the story:

I made this book out of memories from time I spent with my grandma. Drawing some scenes made me cry and others made me laugh out loud. It brings me so much joy to introduce you here to Muyeon Park, my grandma, whom I call Halmoni in Korean. She devoted herself to our family for a lifetime.

I love you, Halmoni.

Here’s to all grandmothers who have devoted their entire lives to their families and grandchildren.

Holding On (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Sophia N. Lee Illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2022) ISBN: 9781534494459 (ISBN10: 1534494456) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I have been waiting for the release of this book for quite awhile now – since I personally know and admire both the author and illustrator. I knew that their collaboration was going to be quite special, and I was not mistaken.

The first full page spread reminded me of my childhood spent in my mother’s province in the Eastern Visayas part of the Philippines, surrounded by music, love, laughter – and endless singing and dancing, especially during fiestas in the summer. This is a testament to Pepper Roxas’ art that has the power to evoke nostalgia with her greens and yellows, I can almost taste the mangoes of my youth. I love how Sophia mentioned specific artists (Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Basil Valdez to name a few) which inspired me to create this Spotify playlist (I drew the line, though, with Nora Aunor mainly because of her politics as evident during the recent presidential election in the country – but do feel free to create your own Holding On inspired playlist) – which I would most likely listen to during lazy Sunday mornings.

The theme of holding on was woven tightly into the narrative without losing its emotional resonance, especially as Lola gradually lost her memory: wisps of air that mingle with the musical notes in the distance, elusive and too far away to grasp with one’s mind. Yet, this young girl with her clear voice sings each and every memory back with joy, good humor, and love that refuses to ever let go.

What a beautiful story. Find this and hold close to your heart.

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 97/98 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Monday Reading] Halmoni and Lola: Portrayal of Grandmothers in 2022 Picturebooks from Korea and the Philippines

  1. Oh my! These books are gorgeous!! I need to look for them in my library…


  2. Hi Myra, trying again! As a grandmother, not a lie that I have much love for books about grandmothers. And I had three loving grandmothers for that special “holding on”.


  3. Pingback: [Monday Reading – My 2022 in Books] Favourite Fiction and Poetry Books Read in 2022 – Gathering Books

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