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The Love of Two Stars: A Korean Legend

by Janie Jaehyun Park

Janie Jaehyun Park’s first book, The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon, won the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award and was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award in 2002. Her second, The Love of Two Stars, is another retelling of a Korean folk tale and is as lovely as the first.

The tale revolves around two stars, represented by human figures, that meet in the Milky Way once a year. Kyonyu, a dedicated farmer, and Jingyuo, a talented weaver, meet in their celestial kingdom and fall madly in love, becoming so wrapped up in one another that they neglect their work. When their fellow citizens are reduced to empty bellies and ragged clothing by this negligence, the king intervenes and separates the lovers so that they can meet only once a year. The appointed day finally arrives after their first year apart, but the lovers can’t reach one another, and their copious tears flood the earth. Faced with the rising tide, the animals on earth come up with an ingenious solution that is carried out by crows and magpies.

The story is about balancing elements and interests: earth and sky, drought and flood, individual desires and community responsibilities – although the community’s interests are weighted much more heavily than the couple’s. The straight-ahead narrative style is true to the oral folklore tradition, where plot eclipses character. Most of the flourishes are to be found in the double-page illustrations (acrylics on gessoed paper), which are resplendent with colour, texture, and undulating lines. The flood scene is especially appealing, with its contrast of warm colours against a grey-blue background, and the animals, rendered along traditional Asian lines, crouched on high ground discussing their options.