Young-Hee and the Pullocho by Mark James Russell
Published by Tuttle Publishing
There are some golden rules in writing for children, including not to preach to them; youngsters instantly see through it.
Mark James Russell’s fantasy novel Young-hee and the Pullocho is strewn with life’s learnings, but not once does the book talk down to the reader.
Thirteen-year-old Young-hee is unhappy and frustrated. Not only is her father in prison, but following the break-up of her family, she’s had to move from Canada back to Seoul, Korea, with her mother and little brother.
Young-hee misses her dad and she’s had to leave her Canadian friends. Now her mother works all the time and Young-hee is often stuck with looking after her mischievous, irritating brother Young-beom, whom she calls Bum and who she thinks her mother favours. What’s more, she hates their new ninth floor apartment and she’s being bullied at school by three girls, who tease her about her father.
One day Young-hee is told by her busy mother to amuse herself for a couple of hours. She goes deep into the parking garage in her apartment building and stumbles into a magical place, Strange Land. Here, she is described by the friendly but odd inhabitants as a ‘bear child’, which is what they call human females. Wonderful things are here, like a goblin market. It is so different to the boredom, sadness and anger in Young-hee’s life that she hardly notices, when told, that not all that live in this land are friendly.
When Young-hee goes back to her apartment a short time later, she immediately longs to return to Strange Land. She searches and searches thereafter, but can’t find her way back…until one fateful day when her little brother is with her.
Back among the stalls in the goblin market, things quickly turn dangerous. Bum is snatched by an evil goblin. The only way to get him back is for Young-hee to go on a dangerous quest in search of the mysterious Pullocho, a plant the goblin wants.
So begins an adventure full of challenges and learnings. Young-hee meets creatures of Korean fable who either help, hinder or threaten her: The Ghost Queen, Rabbit, Fox, Tiger, the Three-Legged Crow, goblins and many more. Before long, Young-hee’s decisions will not only make the difference in her brother’s future; they may decide the fate of a whole world.
The journey is difficult, just like life. Young-hee discovers truths about what is really important and valuable, including family, honour and acceptance.
Young-hee and the Pullocho is a delightful fantasy adventure, peppered with fable and no end of exquisite characters. They come to life in the reader’s imagination, as do the wonderful settings within Strange Land. The twist at the end as to one character’s origin is unexpected, yet highly satisfying. A fantastic novel for children 10+.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Mark James Russell
Title: Young-Hee and the Pullocho
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Published: May 2015