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The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  104 reviews
A breathtaking picture book featuring a Korean girl and her haenyeo (free diving) grandmother about intergenerational bonds, finding courage in the face of fear, and connecting with our natural world.

Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea--generations of Korean women have done so for cen
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published August 4th 2020 by Kokila
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  391 ratings  ·  104 reviews

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Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
I got quite the nice haul of books for my birthday. :D


And since this one here can easily be read in half an hour and the weather doesn’t comply with my wishes today, I thought, yeah, let’s take a dive into the sea.

So, this is what the dust jacket says:

Tina Cho’s The Ocean Calls, with luminous illustrations by muralist Jess X. Snow, is a breathtaking celebration of intergenerational bonds, our connection to our natural world, and finding courage in the face of fear with the help of your family.

CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
Oh this is GORGEOUS! And such a sweet and homely picture book about hanyeo (Korean free divers who are mostly women!)!
I loved how sweet and soft this picture book is, and how it centers on a young girl's relationship with her grandmother and the sea. Paired with beautiful illustrations by Jess X Snow, I loved that this book transports you to the seaside village and shows you the bravery and spirit of hanyeo and the beauty of the sea.

Perfect for young readers and explores facing your fears, the
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous artwork for a story about an amazing Korean grandmother, who’s also a longtime diver, and her granddaughter, who’s wanting to be like her elder.
The divers are bloody amazing, and have a long history of working with the ocean, and have developed a strong community amongst themselves for support.
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dayeon wants to be a haenyo like her grandmother someday-- a skillful diver that hunts for mollusks and other gifts from the sea. However, she's a bit frightened of what lies below the waves; there's sharks and other strange creatures swimming down there. Working together, Dayeon's grandma shows her the beauty of what the ocean has to offer them, and how to keep calm as they dive. Sweet, beautiful, and inspiring, The Ocean Calls shares a historical tradition that spans generations. ...more
Everyone raved about this book, so I went into it with high expectations. The story just felt overlong and not very structured--just sort of meandering. The back matter did an impressive job explaining this story's historical significance, which redeemed my overall impression of the book. ...more
Adriana Martinez Figueroa
A transporting picture book about a Korean haenyeo and her granddaughter and their relationship to the sea. As you read, you truly start to feel like you're taking deep breaths and plunging into the sea with Dayeon and Grandma. The topic of haenyeo wasn't something I was familiar with and I enjoyed learning about it through this medium! The art stays within a cold palette of blues and purples with the occasional orange, making the illustrations feel homey. As someone who lives near the ocean (al ...more
Zoe's Human
Dec 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lt
On Jeju Island in South Korea, there are women who call themselves jamnyeo, also known as haenyeo or by some as Korea's granny mermaids. These women have a diving tradition that goes back to the 17th century. Women aged up to their eighties dive down to 20 meters or more, using their skill and knowledge to collect the "treasures of the sea" in sustainable agricultural practices. The Ocean Calls is the story of one girl who longs to join her grandma but must first overcome her own fears.

Abby Johnson
Color splashes every page of this vibrant picture book about a young Korean girl and her grandmother who is a haenyeo - a diver hunting for food and treasure on the sea floor. Dayeon dreams of following in her grandmother's fins and becoming a "mermaid" diver, but she's afraid of what might happen to her in the water. In the story, her grandmother helps her face her fears and complete her first dive. An author's note gives more information about the real haenyeo - Korean women who dive about 20 ...more
Shaye Miller
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a fascinating look at haenyeo through the relationship of a young girl and her Grandma! I especially liked the reference to mermaids due to the relationship with the sea. The back matter shares more about this practice, so don't miss the extra reading!

For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
i've been doing a DEEP DIVE learning about haenyeo lately.,.. this was illustrated by jess x snow whom i love and whose pictures are so warm and detailed!! the author includes historical context / excerpts from divers at the end which makes me wonder how much ethnographic / oral history went into the research and preparation for writing this book. children's books are underrated ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Dayeon wants to become a haenyeo like her grandma. Her grandma teaches her how to become a haenyeo, women who dive off the coast to get treasures from the sea, showing her the technique, practicing holding her breath, and teaching her the dangers.

Beautiful sea colors.
Stacy Renee  (LazyDayLit)
A beautifully illustrated story about a young Korean girl who wants to brave the deep dark ocean to become a Haenyeo like her grandmother!

Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrensbooks
A picture book story of the Haenyeo divers, a culture of Korean women divers. This story is told in greater detail in novel THE ISLAND OF THE SEA WOMEN by Lisa See. In this book, a grandmother is helping her granddaughter overcome her fears and continue the tradition of Haenyeo.
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fear, grandmother and ocean requests
Recommended to June by: Edward Sullivan
A tribute to the Korean women divers. A little girl wants to become a haenyeo like her grandmother, but first she must overcome her fear of the ocean.
Geri chesner
I've been to Jeju Island, South Korea and have seen the area where they haenyeo dive, although didn't get to see them the day I was there. There are some really great adult books about haenyeo, even one by Lisa See. This book really resonates with the life and work of haenyeo and the endpapers of the book, different in front and back, truly depicts the Korean landscape on the island. I would love to go back and see and honor haneyeo. ...more
Chantal Aurora
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
Wow this book was incredible. I am blown away by the art. The story is heartwarming and I learned a lot from this. I had never heard of this korean tradition. These female divers are extraordinary women.
Sep 03, 2020 rated it liked it
A quick explanation at the beginning of the book of how to pronounce “haenyeo” and the main character’s name (Daeyo) would’ve been appreciated.

Illustrations were gorgeous. Story a little strange for me and a bit hard to follow. Lots of explaining to my American boys that people eat sea urchins and abalone.
Tori King
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid story is a unique fantasy book with grounding in a fascinating cultural tradition. This story is about Dayeon and her grandmother. Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo, treasure-hunting mermaid, just like her grandmother. The haenyeo are women who free dive to collect ocean treasures that they often sell to make money and care for their families. Grandmother teaches Dayeon to practice holding her breath, and to mitigate her fear of the ocean so she can fulfill her drea ...more
I often have to force myself to pay attention to illustrations, but this book's illustrations grabbed me from the very beginning. The light feels so real and present on every page. It's a rare experience that I turn the pages for the art and barely pay attention to the text.

It's in many ways a fairly typical story of a child (a) wanting to learn a family tradition, and (b) having to learn to manage a fear. What it is to be a haenyeo comes out naturally in the story, sufficient to make the story
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Dayeon and her Grandmother watch the sea in the morning from their house. Dayeon’s grandmother is a haenyeo, a woman who dives deep underwater to find abalone. Dayeon is scared of diving though. For breakfast, the two have abalone porridge and practice holding their breath. They both put on sunscreen and diving gear and head to the water. Dayeon plans only to pull treasures from the shore though. After her grandmother finds ten sea gifts, Dayeon agrees to try diving with her grandmother. They wa ...more
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, 2020, picture-books
Thank you to Kokila Books for the ARC!

This book is a beautifully illustrated story about haenyeo, the female free divers who catch food for their families and communities off the coast of Jeju Island in South Korea.

The main character, Dayeon, is a young girl who wants to become a haenyeo like her grandmother. The haenyeo are often compared to mermaids, which Dayeon loves.

This is a very sweet story of a young girl learning about her community's culture and history through her grandmother, who liv
Stephanie Bange
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A wonderful inter-generational story, set in Korea.

Dayeon admires her Grandma, who is a haenyeo (female sea diver) on Jeju Island. Although she, too, would like to be one of these "marine mermaids", she is afraid of the ocean and its dangers. With great patience, Grandma encourages Dayeon by feeding her well (for strength), teaches her how to hold her breath, suits her up for a swim in the ocean, and helps her through her fear for a first dive.

Cho's story is lovely in its calm tone, acknowledgin
Jeju Island on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula is home to a group of women called haenyeo, women divers who use no oxygen, do use weights, wet suits, etc. and dive from 12 to 30 meters to gather varied shellfish. The back matter calls them "indigenous marine biologists" and the tradition dates back years according to the back matter. Tina Cho's story shows the loving relationship between Dayeon and her grandmother, a haenyeo. Dayeon wants to learn and her grandmother is gentle in teach ...more
Sandy Brehl
There are far too many untold stories in the world of western literature for children, but now we have this fictional, beautiful, nearly magical revelation of the Haenyeo, the treasure-hunting "mermaids" of South Korea. A young girl lives with her diving grandma, and pursues her own dreams of one day being able to free dive as her grandma does. She struggles with an early scare in the sea, but is so motivated that she follows each piece of advice her grandma provides, including breathing practic ...more
Nancy Sanders
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dayeon’s Grandma loves the sea. It gives her beauty, treasures, and a way to earn a living. Dayeon wants to love the sea like her grandmother does, but with hungry sharks and water that stings your nose and eyes, she’s hesitant. That is, until Grandma takes her by the hand and teaches her the age-old Korean traditions of diving the depths for its treasure. The training starts with learning how to hold your breath.

What a fascinating new treasure in children’s literature! Celebrating the special b
Cap Reg BOCES School Library System
Note: I am basing this review on an unbound ARC I received.

This is a beautiful picture book telling the story of haenyeo - Korean diving women - which was new information to me, and will also be to many readers, I'm sure. Haenyeo dive up to twenty meters to gather shellfish and sea life to sell to provide money for themselves and their families. The community of haenyeo support one another and protect each other. This book focuses on a girl, Dayeon, whose grandmother is teaching her how to dive
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This unusual picture book introduced me once again to a something new to me. The Ocean Calls is a story of Korean grandmother who is a haenyeo - a diver hunting for food and treasure on the sea floor. Dayeon, her young granddaughter years to become a haenyeo mermaid too but she fears the many dangers in the ocean. Still - the ocean calls.

Wonderfully written tale about these amazing women, facing ones fears and the powerful call of tradition, family and the sea. Back matter includes additional in
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I was so touched and inspired reading this story. I especially loved the whimsical and magical elements that were illustrated with the artwork.

Not knowing much about the haenyeo tradition and the strong women of the Jeju Islands who free dive down to depths to find food to prepare and sell to provide for their families is just mind-blowing.

It shows the resilience and fortitude of women, no matter their age. Seeing the bond and lessons that Dayeon's grandmother passes on is a reminder of how impo
Carrie Finison
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There's a reason this book earned four starred reviews! There's so much to love in this inspiring story of a diving grandmother teaching and passing the ways of the haenyeo divers down to her granddaughter. Written in stunning, lyrical prose that's also child-friendly and approachable, the story shows the main character Dayeon overcoming some of her fear and uncertainty about the ocean to experience a dive with her grandmother. The illustration is absolutely gorgeous, with hidden mermaid forms o ...more
Annamarie Carlson (she, her)
Dayeon longs to be a haenyeo "mermaid" just like her grandmother. Generations of Korean women--mostly in their 50s-80s--dive off the cost of Jeju Island, with no breathing equipment, as deep as twenty meters, looking for various sea creatures they catch and cook or sell. Dayeon is nervous about diving so deep and being able to hold her breath as long as she needs to.

A physically beautiful book that uses brilliant color to show the world above and below the ocean (including the changing time of
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Tina Cho is also known as Tina M. Cho.

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