War is not a subject typically pursued in picture books. Although it could be considered the ultimate nonsense, it is not as suitable a choice for bedtime reading as, say, the nonsense of Edward Lear or Maurice Sendak. The authors of My Freedom Trip, however, have created a spare, lyrical tale of wartime Korea quite suitable for even young children.
Just before the outbreak of war, a young girl's father leaves his North Korean home, bound for the relative safety south of the 38th parallel. When his guide returns for Soo, she reluctantly and bravely parts from her mother, who is to follow last. In the dark of night, Soo and her escort travel by train and on foot over a mountain. They are to meet her father at a river, where she will cross to freedom land. After a confrontation with an enemy soldier, Soo is allowed to continue alone. Remembering the last words her mother spoke to her, Be brave, Soo!, she runs toward the sound of a river and splashes through it, her journey at an end.
Soo's journey has a particular relevance to the two authors, for she is their mother. They have written their grave and lovely book based on her very real freedom trip many years ago.
The book will, it is to be hoped, raise questions that may be difficult to answer, such as: why does Soo never see her mother again, why do people fight, and so on. Many parents reading aloud to their children right before bedtime are too exhausted to give careful thought to such matters, so perhaps the book could be read earlier in the day or to groups at storytime with opportunity for follow-up questions. On the other hand, most of the action takes place at night, and Debra Reid Jenkins's superb illustrations are so dark and dreamlike they just might act as a soporific to children, thus increasing the tired parent's value of the book tenfold!My Freedom Trip is an inspirational tale, and, since it realistically depicts dangers of war, a cautionary one that may plant the priceless seed of peace in a child's receptive mind.