The Hundred Choices Department Store

Fitzroy. Mar. 2022. 98p. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781646032129.
Gr 4 Up–Park’s historical fiction novella tells the story of the Japanese and Russian occupations of what is now North Korea through the lens of the Pang family in the 1940s. Thirteen-year-old Miyook Pang has spent the last two years serving the Japanese war effort in a school that attempts to strip students of their Korean culture and heritage. But when the students are forced to work in a dye factory, Miyook’s parents send her away to their mountain home. After Japan loses World War II and Russian soldiers begin occupying northern Korea, leaving the town—including the Pangs’ business, the Hundred Choices Department Store—in ruins, the family must flee south. Park imbues this historical fiction story with a lot of heart and vivid detail. Miyook is a relatable protagonist, struggling to navigate all the change happening in her town, her country, and her family. However, despite all of the book’s strengths, there are several major drawbacks. The book regularly uses an anti-Japanese slur; Miyook’s favorite brother uses it regularly, and none of the characters push back against it. There is also the repeated use of an anti-Roma slur and ableist metaphors and characterizations.
VERDICT A solid middle grade historical fiction that is ultimately marred by unchallenged ethnic slurs and ableist stereotypes.

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