The Kite Fighters

The Kite Fighters

Book - 2000
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In Korea in 1473, eleven-year-old Young-sup overcomes his rivalry with his older brother Kee-sup, who as the first-born son receives special treatment from their father, and combines his kite-flying skill with Kee-sup's kite-making skill in an attempt to win the New Year kite-fighting competition.
Publisher: New York : Clarion Books, c2000
ISBN: 9780395940419
0395940419
Characteristics: 136 p. : ill. ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Park, Eung Won - Illustrator

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dnk
Feb 04, 2018

Kite Fighters is about the power dynamics within the traditional Korean family. Kee-sup and Young-sup are the sons of a bureaucrat in medieval Korea. Because Kee-sup is the oldest son, he is expected to study hard and take the civil service examination required for important bureaucratic positions. Young-sup is the second son. He is neither expected nor encouraged to sit for the examination. While Kee-sup is methodical and artistic, Young-sup is daring, instinctive and enjoys a challenge. Because of their personalities, Kee-sup is able to make it through his studies, but Young-sup is the one with the true passion for learning.

Kee-sup's passion is in building things, and thus while he has little skill flying a kite, he can make one perfectly. Young-sup lacks the attention to detail required to build a great kite, but he knows automatically how to fly one.

Although the brothers' relationship is fraught with some tension, they are able to work together to construct and fly their kite so well that they draw the attention of the boy-king of Korea. Although supposedly all-powerful, the boys immediately recognize both the loneliness and burdens the king feels. They are then honored and touched when the king asks them to fly a kite for him during the annual kite festival, which he cannot participate in. The description of the festival is rich in detail, but not tiresome, and while the reader can guess the outcome, the author successfully and even somewhat suspensefully draws it out.

Although Young-sup is the primary voice of the story, the author shows that both brothers should have our sympathy. While tradition requires Young-sup to work that much harder for any recognition from his father, it demands that Kee-sup take a path which he agrees to but is not entirely cut out for. While Young-sup resents his brother's privileges and Kee-sup envies his brother's freedom, it is obvious that the two depend on each other for their happiness.

Park also drops a few references to the examination system which dominated Korean society for hundreds of years and is in large part responsible for the importance of education in modern Korea. While selections for civil service jobs are supposed to be made on the basis of merit- or the results of the exam- it is known even to these young boys that who you know can still be very important in securing a good job. One must wonder how that cynical knowledge mingled with the strict lessons in Confucian values about honor for children in this culture.

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indigo_dog_157
Jul 28, 2012

indigo_dog_157 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 8 and 12

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