For the past few weeks I’ve been hearing children everywhere asking each other the inevitable question: “What are you going to be for Halloween?” Their answers are as varied as the children themselves, and show much creativity and imagination. My daughter’s best friend, for instance, will be an atomic fireball candy.
Every time I hear the question, though, I think of Yangsook Choi’s picture book,Behind the Mask.
Kimin, a young Korean American boy, decides to dress as his grandfather for Halloween after looking through some old boxes of family memorabilia and remembering how grandpa’s masks used to scare him when he was younger. His friends think that dressing “as an old man” is not very scary, but what they don’t know is that Kimin’s grandfather recently passed away, and that he used to be a Korean mask dancer.
This is a lovely intergenerational story that mixes aspects of Korean culture with American Halloween customs. Children will be excited by the illustrations of a masked Kimin dancing on the streets with his friends, and to find out the secret that the old mask holds.
In this 2009 interview, the author tells us what inspired her to write Behind the Mask— and how leaving home [Korea], helped her find her way home.