Ginger Park is the author, with her sister Frances Park, of the children's picture book The Royal Bee. It focuses on their grandfather's experiences growing up in Korea. Her other books include Chocolate Chocolate, also written with her sister. The two of them own a chocolate shop in Washington, D.C.
Q: Why did you and your sister decide to write this picture book based on your grandfather's experiences?
A: It felt like a story that must be told - to inspire children. While our grandfather’s life was marked with tragedy, what truly defined him was his perseverance and ultimate triumph in the face of adversity.
Our grandfather was born into poverty in a land ruled by royalty, but he grew up to be one of the most honored men in his region – supposedly, there is a statue of him somewhere on the China-North Korean border. Sadly, and for obvious reasons, we’re unable to visit.
Q: How much of his life story did you know growing up, and how much research did you do to write the book?
A: Growing up, our grandfather was a mythical figure as we never met the revered pastor who died in the early ‘60s (before I was born). But our mother spoke of him often, wistfully so. The more stories we heard, the more we wanted to know.
That said, the book required a bit of research – the ruling class vs the working class, how people dressed – “sangmin” vs “yangban,” descriptions of a village “sodang” school, a royal palace, the topography of the land.
Q: What do you think Christopher Zhong-Yuan Zhang's illustrations add to the story?
A: The text is long and detailed illustrations were necessary to guide children through the historical and foreign aspects of the story.
Christopher Zhang captured the beauty of the story with rich color and detail. The artist’s focus is on portrait and landscape, which clearly complemented the story.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I hope children read my grandfather’s story and find inspiration. No matter how challenging life is, look to that one glimmer of hope – it’s out there. For my grandfather, it was one great teacher who changed the course of his life.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just completed a middle grade novel tentatively titled Mermaid Girl. Set in Korea during the Japanese occupation, the novel chronicles my family of hoteliers during an era when few hotels catered to Korean families, thus illuminating a world rarely documented in history books.
The story is spun around the affluent Hong family, focusing on 15-year-old Kwan. The brilliant but ever-so-awkward First Son struggles to find his place in a world of inequality among privileged Japanese and poverty-stricken Koreans.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I'm delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of my novel The Hundred Choices Department Store by Fitzroy Books, a division of Regal House Publishing/Spring 2022.
Set in Sinuiju, Korea, this historical novel is inspired by my mother’s remembrances of her family’s painful struggles during the Russian invasion of their hometown and ultimate flight south, across the 38th parallel to Seoul, just prior to the outbreak of the Korean War. You can learn more about me and the book here: https://www.regalhousepublishing.com/ginger-park/
--Interview with Deborah Kalb