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Every Falling Star
Cover of Every Falling Star
Every Falling Star
The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
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Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets...
Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets...
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  • Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his "brothers"; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

About the Author-

  • Sungju Lee speaks across Europe, Asia, and North America about his experiences and about North Korean political social issues. He lives in South Korea but studies in England.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 18, 2016
    This affecting memoir starts slowly but gains momentum as it highlights a boy’s survival and eventual escape from North Korea. The narrative begins with a brief history of 20th-century Korea that helps establish context. Lee enjoyed a privileged childhood in Pyongyang as the son of a respected military officer until his fate changed abruptly at age 10, when his family left for an extended “holiday” in a northern sea town where his parents were forced to work as laborers. Writing with McClelland (Stars Between the Sun and Moon), Lee effectively describes his own trusting ignorance and how he began to understand the dire state of their exile. The strongest section recounts Lee’s harrowing life on the streets as he banded together with friends, stealing, begging, borrowing, and fighting to subsist (“Maybe everything had been taken from us, but we still had our word, and that meant something”); deadening their pain with alcohol, smoke, and opium; and mourning lost friends. A testament to resilience, Lee’s story pulls back the curtain on life in North Korea. Ages 13–up. Agent: Al Zuckerman, Writers House.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2016
    A pampered son of the elite survives a nightmarish ordeal in this page-turner of a memoir.Sungju Lee's carefree life, playing with his rare pedigreed dog and watching cartoons, comes to an abrupt end at age 11 when his family is banished to a remote seaside town after his army officer father transgresses in unspecified ways. The mid-1990s famine that eventually killed over 1 million North Koreans soon takes its toll, as each of his parents leaves in search of food and does not return. Teaming up with several friends, Lee travels the country--stealing in markets; fighting other gangs for territory; smoking, drinking, and using opium; getting arrested and imprisoned; finding clients for a madam's "nightflowers"; and losing two of his friends in brutal attacks. Straightforward prose prevents this harrowing tale from overwhelming readers, but at times it may emotionally distance them. Over time the boys shed their faith in the regime but never give up on dreams of reunion with their families. A short foreword offers readers some historical context, but the story's emphasis on the dangers of daily survival mirrors Lee's lack of awareness at the time of larger political events. This fast-paced story will likely compel its readers to learn more about North Korea after finishing it. (Memoir. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    August 1, 2016

    Gr 6-9-Lee pens his harrowing journey from one of North Korea's city elite to a homeless and hungry vagrant. Lee, an only child, grew up comfortably in the nation's capital of Pyongyang because his father was a well-respected member of the military. Yet with no warning, the boy and his parents were deported to the countryside. Lee, who had known only the strict rituals and decorum of Pyongyang, was initially horrified by life in Gyeong-seong. Mass hunger, public executions, and unemployment were rampant-a stark contrast to the propaganda Lee had been taught his whole life. Forced by starvation, Lee's parents left him in search of commerce or emigration. He fended for himself for almost five years. His struggle is chronicled in a tightly written first-person narrative. Lee would eventually lead a gang of boys who lived by their wiles, stealing just enough to survive. The tension that runs throughout the narrative is somewhat alleviated by the mere existence of the work. Lee provides a summary of the history of Korea and the politics of the famine in North Korea, achieving a great balance between historical context and storytelling. Lee incorporates Korean words throughout the text and defines them with a pronunciation guide in the back matter. VERDICT An excellent inside look at childhood in poverty that will resonate with middle schoolers.-Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
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