Tiny Feet Between the Mountains
Being a child in the adult world presents all sorts of challenges, but size is perhaps the most obvious, immediate hurdle. For young Soe-In, the "once upon a time"-hero in Hanna Cha's delightful debut picture book, Tiny Feet Between the Mountains, her smallness even determined her name: Soe-In means "tiny person." Although Soe-In took four steps to others' two, her size never stopped her. She lived "in a large village" where the villagers would confidently boast that "they were bigger and more fearless than the spirit tiger rumored to protect the surrounding mountains and forest."
And then the darkness came: "the villagers woke up to find the sky was filled with thick black smoke and red embers.... And the sun was nowhere to be seen." The chieftain requests for a volunteer to trek "into the mountains" and see what "made the sun disappear." Soe-In alone speaks up: "Sir, I will go." Though she's met with a cacophony of doubting resistance, Soe-In's tenacity never wavers. She packs her pink bojagi (traditional wrapping scarf) and bravely ventures forth. Nothing stops her until she's eye-to-eye with the spirit tiger himself.
Korean American author/artist Cha explains in her author's note that she drew from her cultural history, celebrating the "tigers [that] constantly appeared in Korean stories and images, sometimes as deities, sometimes as threats." As artist, the Rhode Island School of Design-trained Cha seems to attenuate the tiger's spirit: while all her richly hued spreads swirl with inviting action, her tiger-themed panels especially burst forth in flaming swaths of gold, orange, brown and black strokes, as if the tiger's energy can hardly be contained on the printed page. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon