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Behind the Mask

Last updated Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Author: Yangsook Choi
Date of Publication: 2006
ISBN: 0374305226
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2007

Synopsis: From School Library Journal: When his friends ask him what he will be for Halloween, Korean-American Kimin tells them that he will be his grandfather. The children don't think that it will be very exciting to dress as an old man, but the boy knows better. Before he died, his grandfather had been a famous mask dancer in Korea, and Kimin has two boxes of costumes, photos, and memorabilia from his career. He picks a mask that had scared him years before when he had visited his grandfather and shows his friends some dance moves as they go trick-or-treating. The children go to his house and all end up dancing and looking at the beautiful masks. The illustrations in muted fall colors enhance the story beautifully, and include endpapers with the stylized masks depicted. This is an evocative look at a Korean tradition and an interesting intergenerational and multicultural story for Halloween.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Vocabulary: basement, valuable, Korea, gruesome, terrified, curiosity, tal (Korean word for mask), awe, treasure, disguise, dancing (as an occupation), menacing, traditional
•  Look at the cover. What is the boy wearing? Is it a scary mask?
•  Have you seen this kind of writing? Is it in English?
•  Why do you think the boy is wearing a mask? When do you dress up? What do you dress up as?
•  What are you going to be for Halloween? What do you do on Halloween?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Kimin’s mother brings the family treasures for him to look through? What kind of treasures does your family have? (Photos, letters, etc.)
•  Kimin’s grandfather was a dancer in Korea. Do you know what jobs your grandparents had?
•  Kimin speaks English and his grandfather speaks Korean. Do any of your family members speak a different language? What languages?
•  Kimin’s grandfather wore a mask and it scared him. Have you ever been scared by a mask or a scary face?
•  Do all the children in your neighborhood trick or treat?
•  Do you think Kimin’s mother would have let him wear his grandfather’s costume to trick or treat if she had seen him before he left? Do you think he should have asked permission?
•  Was Kimin’s mother mad when he scratched the mask? Why or why not?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a mask
•  Make a secret letter in your mask.
•  Draw a picture of something that scares you/what you want to be for Halloween.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!