Soo Min isn't sure about this new home of hers. Nothing is like it was back home in Korea. The food, her new house, the sounds outside her window at night. Though her American mother and father are nice, they cannot speak her language. Soo Min teaches them some Korean words, but it isn't the same. The only thing that Soo Min finds comforting is Goyangi, the American cat. Goyangi's fur is soft and he is quiet, which makes Soo Min feel peaceful too.
Goyangi Means Cat is a gentle story that explores the loneliness a newly adopted child feels, when he or she is settling into an entirely strange and sometimes frightening place. The artwork by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher is fantastic -- these are the kind of pictures you could pore over, examining all the small details woven into the backgrounds via paper collage. An especially nice touch is the interweaving of Korean words into the text, a technique the artists used to demonstrate the blending together of Soo Min's experiences, both at home in Korea and now at home in America. This title would make a great addition to any child's library, but is especially wonderful for Korean children as a touchstone with their heritage and culture.
For siblings and family members who want to understand better what their children are going through, as well as for the child feeling all alone in a world they do not recognize, this is a simple and reassuring tale. It's also a good reminder for parents that although our children may act as though everything is all right, inside they may be confused and lonely. Even a small change in Soo Min's routine, like a trip to the library, seems like too much at first, and Soo Min longs for the comfort of her friend Goyangi. Although Soo Min knows her American parents care for her, she feels isolated without a common language. But the language of her four-footed friend sustains her, helping ease Soo Min into the transition of a new home and family.
Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell, published by Viking Penguin
Sample quote: "At night Goyangi curled up on Soo Min's bed. When she was frightened by a siren in the street, she stroked Goyangi's soft fur. When Soo Min missed her Korean friends, Goyangi licked her hand with his towelly tongue."