by Linda Sue Park
First sentence: “Kevin ripped the page out of his notebook and crumpled it into a ball, making it as hard and tight as he could.”
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Kevin is in seventh grade, struggling to figure out where he fits in. He’s not a math genius like his dad. In fact, he’s not really good at school at all. He’s not good at sports. He’s not into his Korean heritage. He’s just kind of there.
Until one day, at home trying to figure out homework, his world changes. Out of nowhere, a man, called Skillful Archer, is a legendary ruler from ancient Korea. It’s up to Kevin to help him figure out how to get Archer back home. Before the end of the night, which signifies the end of the Tiger year on the Chinese calendar.
On the one hand, this is full of Korean history and tradition. It’s fascinating to learn about Archer — Chu-mong, a historical figure — as he and Kevin work together to return him to his time.
On the other hand, though, it’s quite simplistic, even for a middle grade novel. Archer comes, he teaches Kevin Valuable Lessons, and then he leaves. What really bothered me is that Kevin didn’t seem to do anything. Though perhaps that was the point: he didn’t do much but follow Archer around — though he did have to explain things like cars and computers — until the end, when he figured out how to be more proactive in his life. It didn’t make for a very interesting novel, but I suppose it was true to the character.
Not bad. Not great, but not bad either.