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The Hundred Choices Department Store
Featured on: NPR's All Things Considered! Click here to read & listen WAMU.
A CBC March 2022 Hot off the Press selection. Children's Book Council
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It's 1944. The Pangs own The Hundred Choices Department Store, a thriving business in northern Korea that caters to wealthy Japanese. Thirteen-year-old Miyook Pang has spent two years serving in the war effort on behalf of Japan during the Japanese Occupation of her country. Miyook endures exhaustion and illness, but only when she is sent to work in the dreaded dye factory; a place deemed Hell's Chamber by her older brother, Hoon - does she experience spiritual death. It is here where she meets Song-ho, an orphaned boy, and unbeknownst to her, the brief encounter will prove fateful. When Japan loses the war, Russian soldiers capture her beloved hometown and The Hundred Choices Department Store, leaving the city in ruin. With the Korean War looming, Miyook must take a dangerous flight south, across the 38th parallel now guarded by the newly formed North Korean Army. Here, once again, she encounters Song-ho, an event that will change the course of her life.
"Miyooki’s mother also advises her to “tell a story, something meaningful.” And that is just what Ginger Park has done in this achingly beautiful tale of a brave girl who must find the courage to leave her home behind and rise above the sorrows of her times." Read full review here: Hill Rag
Excerpt from THE HUNDRED CHOICES DEPARTMENT STORE
December arrives with cold winds and the promise of knee-deep snows. I sit up in bed and gaze into the mirror, wondering if this will be my last winter. My old bones tell me it just might be. I’ve been counting the days for quite some time
now. I am, after all, eighty-nine years old. Ninety in Korean years (as we celebrate the first birthday on the day one is born). Oma would never recognize the old woman looking back at me. In her eyes, I’m forever a teenage girl.
I hear my daughter calling after her restless nineteen-year-old son who is out the door.
“Carson, come back here now!”
My grandson reminds me of Hoon, my tortured baby-faced brother, who lived in the shadow of Hwan, his fraternal twin. But I suspect Carson will find his way in the
world. If only Hoon had been given the chance... With bittersweet thoughts, my eyes turn to the gold bamboo-framed needlepoint canvas on the wall. The embroidered scene comes alive in vibrant color—beneath a canopy of fiery persimmon trees, a little boy eats sweet fruit under a night sky aglow with a full Chuseok moon, the symbol of happiness.
My heart skips a beat. For although my family before this one is long gone, memories are so close, I can almost touch them.
History and heart intertwine in this gripping, deeply felt novel about a divided family in a divided country. As World War II comes to a close in northern Korea, Miyooki must confront external danger—occupying Russian soldiers, vicious border patrols—and internal doubt and grief to find her true place in a changing land. This book sings of the beauties of an old way of life—and of hope and possibility.
--Mary Quattlebaum, author of “Pirate vs. Pirate”
In this gripping, poignant novel by Ginger Park, a Korean family is torn apart by Japanese and Russian rule during World War II and sacrificial love, yet held together by faith, food, and memories. Miyook’s family owns a bustling department store in the city of Sinuiju in northern Korea, but communism forces her family to leave everything behind to escape over mountains and a river to freedom in the south. On her journey, Miyook learns that small gestures are never forgotten. I love this story.
--Tina Cho, author of “The Ocean Calls” and “Rice from Heaven”
How do you tell a tale of war, the separation of family and country, of heroes and villains, and make it sound like poetry? Ginger Park has woven a beautiful and heartbreaking story of Korea in the 20th century in "The Hundred Choices Department Store." Her details of food and family traditions are as heartwarming as a bowl of steamy homemade noodles. The novel is an excellent introduction to life in Korea during World War II and the civil war that followed. A beautiful book.
--Kitty Felde, author of "Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza"
"This beautifully written, heart-wrenching coming-of-age story speaks to the enduring power of familial bonds and the resiliency of the human spirit. As her world is destroyed by tyranny, subjugation, and agonizing separation, Miyook learns that a small act of kindness can have enormous consequences. The heightened pathos of deftly crafted scenes will inspire empathy and compassion for the plight of refugees. A riveting, timely, humanizing account of risking everything for freedom.”
-- Jama Rattigan, Author of Dumpling Soup
"Ginger Park weaves her family’s story into a compelling novel reaching far beyond battle dates and casualties—a reminder that losses from conflict have a lasting impact, even on resilient children, and political boundaries often draw red lines through the heart."
--Karen Leggett Abouraya, author
A fantastic middle-grade historical novel that takes place during World War II and the tumultuous years leading up to the Korean War, set on the Korean Peninsula. Drawn from stories of the author's family, “The Hundred Choices Department Store” is a richly detailed book that chronicles a harrowing era in Korean history. This book does a great job of illustrating the hard choices so many families had to make—stay in a familiar place that has been turned upside down and face danger at the hands of people who had once been allies or venture into the unknown. This is a wonderfully written, heart-wrenching tale of family and resilience.
--Meg Wessell, Blogger, A Bookish Affair
According to my life path number 3, I was destined to write (that is if you believe in numerology and I do). But as a youngster, I was an athlete, a gymnast with
boundless energy, spending most of my time upside down, turning cartwheels
and doing backflips – I was too carefree to tap into my creative side.
That all changed on my seventeenth birthday, two days after my father’s untimely death. Call it a gut-wrenching aha moment, a reflective day of tearful soul-searching when I realized that I knew very little about my parents – their lives and dreams growing up in Korea, their struggles to survive in a world of war, oppression, and life shattering events.
For the next few months, I was fretful, clinging to my mother, yearning to know her life story as well as my father’s, fearing our time together was like sand in an hourglass. Night after night, we stayed up late sifting through old photos as my mother shared anecdotal events of the homeland. I was mesmerized, listening, interpreting, and ultimately crafting my art while documenting my family’s rich past that spanned the Korean peninsula from the northern port city of Sinuiju to the capital city of Seoul.
And, so, began my writing journey.
While I never followed in my father’s Harvard footsteps, writing books and owning a boutique chocolate shop in the heart of downtown Washington, DC have been my true education. Yes, Books and Chocolate. As writer and entrepreneur, I’ve built a sweet life, surviving and thriving in an uncertain world.
I’ve written a delicious chocolate memoir and a cookbook for allergy sufferers as well as some whimsical picture books such as Where on Earth Is My Bagel? and The Have a Good Day Café. Do you see a theme here? Yes, I’m a foodie at heart! But it is the books inspired by my parents’ experiences growing up in Japanese occupied Korea, enduring the Russian invasion of their homeland and the Korean War, that have deeper meaning, bring a tragic yet vibrant world back to life.
Sadly, my mother passed away in 2019, but like my father, she lives on through my books, which have garnered many accolades including the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award, Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, The Joan G. Sugarman Children’s Book Award, Outstanding Merit, Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College, Parents’ Choice Award, A Junior Library Guild Selection, IRA-CBC Teachers’ Choice Award, and NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book For Young People Children’s Book Award.
My books have been published by National Geographic, Boyds Mills & Kane, Hyperion, Lee & Low, St. Martin’s Press, and Thomas Dunne.
I’m honored to add Fitzroy Books, a division of Regal House Publishing, to the list with the publication of my latest children’s book The Hundred Choices Department Store. Set in Sinuiju, Korea, this historical novel is inspired by my mother’s remembrances of her family’s painful struggles during the Russian invasion of their hometown and ultimate flight south, across the 38th parallel to Seoul, just prior to the outbreak of the Korean War.
Delighted to also announce the forthcoming publication of my picture book, co-authored with Frances, "Grandpa's Scroll" (Albert Whitman, March 1, 2023).
I'm a proud member of the Children's Book Guild of Washington, DC and SCBWI. To learn more about my favorite historical fiction for kids, visit me on my Shepherd page.
When I’m not writing or spending treasured time with my human and fur baby family, I’m usually at my shop, behind the counter ‘breaking chocolate’ with my beloved customers. My shop motto: There’s a chocolate for every mood. But for me it’s always something dark and earthy that lingers on the tongue long after the chocolate has melted.