The illustrations in this book are remarkable. Their bright, lifelike quality fairly jumps from the pages. The detail in the braided baskets, flowers, and jewels is impressive. The rich, vibrant reds, greens and oranges give the illustrations power. Ruth Heller is one of my favorite illustrators.
The story unfolds with the natural fairytale quality. “Long ago in Korea, when magical creatures where as common as cabbages, there lived an old gentleman and his wife.”
When Pear Blossom’s mother dies, her father goes to the village matchmaker. He weds a widow with a daughter named Peony. The stepmother instantly over works Pear Blossom. Her elderly father becomes too ill to deal with the situation, even when the stepfamily addresses Pear Blossom as Little Pig or Pigling. When her stepmother gives Pear Blossom impossible tasks, a magical frog comes to her aid. But, her stepmother punishes her severely. This continues with sparrows cleaning the rice and a bowl reading the rice paddies. This gives her time to attend the village festival. On the way there, a palanquin carrying a young nobleman crowds are off the road. She loses her sandal in the stream. While attending the festival, Pear Blossom is bullied by her stepmother and stepsister. The nobleman brings her straw sandal and asks Pear Blossom to marry him. She runs away in shyness but when springtime comes, the magistrate sends a go-between to arrange the marriage.
The book ends with an author’s note discussing versions of Cinderella in Korea and goblins in Korean fairy tales. The illustrator explains that the patterns and other items found in the pictures come from various places in Korea.
The book is a fascinating version of Cinderella and would be enjoyed by children aged seven and up. I much prefer this version to the previously reviewed Korean tale.