[review] Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans by Tina Cho and Keum Jin Song

Much of what we hear about North Korea on the news these days is dire and distressing.

While we may not be able to fully imagine daily life in this Communist dictatorship, we do know that more than half of the population lives in poverty without adequate nourishment.

Situations like these are especially difficult to explain to children, but the right stories, appealing to our common humanity, can have a positive impact. In Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (little bee books, 2018), we learn how a group of refugees and church volunteers in South Korea clandestinely delivered packets of rice via helium balloons to hungry North Koreans.

Debut picture book author Tina Cho (who currently lives in South Korea) based her story on an actual mission she herself volunteered for. This fascinating account of courage and compassion shows how ordinary people created their own miracle of hope for their starving counterparts.

As the story opens, Yoori, a young girl who lives in South Korea, travels with her father (Appa) to the border between the two countries. She explains that “Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have enough food to eat.”

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chatting with cobi kim about veggietorials

I’m excited today to welcome my lovely niece, Cobi Kim, to the Alphabet Soup kitchen!

Cobi hosts the beautiful food blog, Veggietorials, where she shares her passion for all things plant-based. She features delicious recipes, product reviews for items she uses in her daily life, travel and cooking videos, and lots of photos and tips about what to order when eating out.

She prefers “plant-based” and “vegan-ish”  when describing her lifestyle, choosing not to call herself a “vegan,” since she is uncomfortable with labels that tend to separate rather than unite us. She aligns herself with the principle of “Ahimsa,” doing no harm by leading a life of non-violence.

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friday feast: my favorite picture bride

My 1st birthday party with both grandmas behind me (Grandma Yang, wielding chopsticks with her left hand, Grandma Kim, plate on her lap). Naturally, I’m sizing up the cake.

Grandma Kim lived in a small, tidy house right across the street from Grandma Yang. A row or two of baby pink carnations lined her front walk and she had a papaya tree and banana plants in the back yard.

She spoke slowly in broken English while winding her long gray hair into a tiny bun, and phoned us whenever she made a fresh batch of kimchi. Many mornings during the summer, my brother and I visited Grandma Kim for breakfast, even though Grandma Yang was our official babysitter. You see, we loved Grandma Kim’s food.

Loved to watch our eggs gently simmering on the stove, loved the way she sliced a freshly picked papaya in half, making sure to remove every single seed, and most of all, loved the way she made toast. White bread, lightly toasted, generous layers of fresh butter and guava jelly spread evenly all the way out to the edges, and then the slice folded neatly in half. When you bit into it, it was a little chewy, the butter and jelly so melty good — the perfect complement to a soft-boiled egg.

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