Every Falling Star
by Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland
* * * * Stars (Great!)
Sungju Lee was just shy of 10 years old in 1997 when his family was forced to leave Pyongyang, North Korea. His parents said they were going on “vacation,” but they were really leaving their home for good. Sungju didn’t discover the truth until much later. Even though Sungju’s parents were supposed to receive rations for their work, food was scarce, and soon the family was starving. Sungju’s father made the difficult decision to leave for China, which involved a difficult and illegal border crossing. He promised to be home within a week, but was never able to return. Sungju’s mother also promised to return with food. Sungju never heard from her again. Sick and weak after days of hunger, Sungju turned to his friend Young-bum for help. The boys worked together to steal food and medicine for Young-Bum’s ailing grandmother, and later they joined forces with some other boys to form a gang. They learned how to fight, steal, perform, and work to stay alive. For years they searched for their families, traveling from town to town. It was rough and depressing, and they turned to anything that would dull the pain of their existence – alcohol, cigarettes, opium. About the time Sungju had nearly given up all hope, he was reunited with his grandparents, and later his father – outside of North Korea. He has also not been able to return to his former home, but his studies abroad have allowed him to write and share his story and hope and plan for the reunification of North and South Korea. Sometimes bleak, but moving, Sungju’s story and that of his brothers’ and other North Koreans’ suffering demands to be shared widely.
Reviewed by YA Librarian