The Royal Bee [ePub]

by Frances Park

The Royal Bee by Frances Park tells a story of a poor Korean boy and his mother in the late 19th century. Song-ho's days are filled with chores, and dreaming of life outside the fields. Song-ho's widowed mother works hard harvesting crops and struggles to provide the already almost perished food upon their table. Song-ho dreams of getting an education and getting himself and his mother out of poverty. Drawn away from his household chores by the sound of the school bell in the valley, Song-ho, a “sagmin” is told by the school Master Min that only the privileged "yangban" children may attend. Each day, however, the boy listens outside the door, and learns each day's lesson. All the while, Master Min ensures that his voice can be heard loud and clear through the rice paper doors. On a particular cold morning, the kind master invites him in. Song-ho is challenged by his master and classmates, who question how smart Song-ho really is and pepper him with question after question about history and knowledge. Not only is Song-ho successful in the Q & A, he is allowed to join the school, where his classmates praise him for his competence and determination. Later, he is selected to represent the school in The Royal Bee, a competition of intelligence among other students in the land. Song-ho goes far in the Bee, and is one of the final competitors. His final answer to "What does winning The Royal Bee mean to you?" brings him a standing ovation. He answers, simply and graciously, that his only thoughts are in aiding the survival of him and his mother. He is honored with winning the Royal Bee and reaps the winner's rewards, a cow with a gold coin necklace. The message is so powerful; a selfless boy only wants to make his mother happy and obtain an education. The wish is so simple and so genuine. The illustrations allow the reader to visualize what East Asia looked like many years ago, and create a beautiful setting for the listener or reader to imagine. Students in grades 1st through 3rd can appreciate this historical text. While Song-ho’s story may have been fictionalized, the events of a boy, achieving education and class, despite his meager beginnings is derived from Park’s own grandfather’s story 100 year ago.



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