Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to Korea. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about Korea.
Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
When it comes to children’s stories about Korea, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Pigling: A Cinderella Story to popular sellers like A Single Shard to some of our favorite hidden gems like Danbi Leads the School Parade.
We hope this list of kids books about Korea can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!
Meet Danbi, the new girl at school!
Danbi is thrilled to start her new school in America. But a bit nervous too, for when she walks into the classroom, everything goes quiet. Everyone stares. Danbi wants to join in the dances and the games, but she doesn’t know the rules and just can’t get anything right. Luckily, she isn’t one to give up. With a spark of imagination, she makes up a new game and leads her classmates on a parade to remember! Danbi Leads the School Parade introduces readers to an irresistible new character. In this first story, she learns to navigate her two cultures and realizes that when you open your world to others, their world opens up to you.
Soe-in is a tiny child in a village full of large people. She struggles with completing chores due to her size, but she never gives up. One day, when the sky grows dark and full of smoke, Soe-in volunteers to travel into the tall mountains to investigate. She’s surprised to find a spirit tiger there and learn he has swallowed the sun by mistake! To help the spirit tiger and her village, Soe-in must come up with a clever idea to solve this gigantic problem. And while she’s at it, she just may prove that the smallest people often have the biggest, bravest hearts.
This is an enchanting and magical variant of the favorite fairy tale. Like the tree planted to honor her birth, Pear Blossom is beautiful, and the pride of her elderly mother and father. But then her mother dies, and her father remarries. Pear Blossom’s stepmother resents her new daughter’s beauty. Out of jealousy, she makes Pear Blossom perform impossible chores while her own daughter, Peony, watches idly. But fortunately, Pear Blossom is not alone. With the help of magical creatures—togkabis—she can accomplish each task, and triumph over her stepmother’s cruelty.
Beautifully illustrated and told by debut author Julie Kim, this picture book in a graphic-novel style follows a young Korean girl and boy whose search for their missing grandmother leads them into a world inspired by Korean folklore, complete with mischievous goblins (<i>dokkebi), </i>a greedy tiger, a clever rabbit, and a wily fox. <p/>Two young children pay a visit to Halmoni (grandmother in Korean), only to discover she’s not home. As they search for her, noticing animal tracks covering the floor, they discover a window, slightly ajar, new to their grandmother’s home. Their curiosity gets the best of them, and they crawl through and discover an unfamiliar fantastical world, and their adventure begins. As they continue to search for their grandmother and solve the mystery of the tracks, they go deeper into a world of Korean folklore, meeting a number of characters who speak in Korean along the way, and learn more about their cultural heritage. <p/>This beautifully illustrated graphic picture book is filled with a number of Easter eggs for readers of all ages to discover, and is inspired by the Korean folktales that author and illustrator Julie Kim heard while growing up. Translations to Korean text in the story and more about the folktale-inspired characters are included at the end.
The Donkey Egg - Featuring Bear and Hare from their Caldecott-Honor winning Tops & Bottoms, the Stevens sisters celebrate perseverance and teamwork in this laugh-out-loud story of triumph over trickery. Bear would rather sleep all day than work on his farm, and Fox knows just the kind of help he needs—a donkey! When Fox tricks Bear into buying a donkey egg, Bear can’t wait for it to hatch so he can meet his new friend. But donkeys don’t come from eggs! And when the “egg” finally opens, Bear gets a fruity surprise. Luckily, Bear doesn’t have to face disappointment alone . . . Hare is there to help!
Grandpa Across the Ocean - Though separated by language, age, and an ocean, a child and grandparent find common ground in this warm, witty picture book
Rice from Heaven - Rice from Heaven is a true story about compassion and bravery as a young girl and her community in South Korea help deliver rice via balloons to the starving and oppressed people in North Korea. “We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb. Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have food to eat.” Yoori lives in South Korea and doesn’t know what North Korea is like, but her father (Appa) does. Appa grew up in North Korea, where he did not have enough food to eat. Starving, he fled to South Korea in search of a better life. Yoori doesn’t know how she can help as she’s only a little “grain of rice” herself, but Appa tells her that they can secretly help the starving people by sending special balloons that carry rice over the border. Villagers glare and grumble, and children protest feeding the enemy, but Yoori doesn’t back down. She has to help. People right over the border don’t have food. No rice, and no green fields. With renewed spirit, volunteers gather in groups, fill the balloons with air, and tie the Styrofoam containers filled with rice to the tails of the balloons. With a little push, the balloons soar up and over the border, carrying rice in the darkness of the night over to North Korea.
Pigling: A Cinderella Story - From a life filled with heartache and hardship, comes an unmatched beauty destined for a fairy-tale ending: Pear Blossom, a young Korean girl, leads a happy life with her parents―until her mother dies and her father remarries. Her new wicked stepmother and stepsister make Pear Blossom the victim of their cruelty. They give her the nickname Pigling, or little pig, and do everything they can to torture her. But soon, magical creatures come to Pear Blossom’s aid―and one day, the girl meets a handsome magistrate. Will Pear Blossom’s luck change for the better? Or is she destined to suffer at her stepfamily’s hands forever?
A young Korean boy named Sun-sin designs one of the greatest battleships in history and fulfills his dream of sailing the world.
The Newbery Medal-winning tale of an orphan boy whose dream of becoming a master potter leads to unforeseen adventure in ancient Korea.
Tree-ear is an orphan boy in a 12th-century Korean village renowned for its ceramics. When he accidentally breaks a delicate piece of pottery, he volunteers to work to pay for the damage. Putting aside his own dreams, Tree-ear resolves to serve the master potter by embarking on a difficult and dangerous journey, little knowing that it will change his life forever.
“Intrigues, danger, and a strong focus on doing what is right turn a simple story into a compelling read. . . . A timeless jewel.”-Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.
Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did you know you can help us improve this list? Check out our Community Handbook and learn how to add tags to books.