The Royal Bee

Book review by
Whitney Stewart, Common Sense Media
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Some kids will enjoy the quiet mood.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness

The boy's mother despairs over their family's poverty.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's no objectionable content in this story of a poor boy striving to improve his family's life.

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What's the story?

Young Sung-ho lives with his impoverished mother in nineteenth-century Korea, a time when only wealthy boys were allowed in school. When the school bell beckons Sung-ho and he is barred from entering class, the boy plants himself outside the rice-paper door and learns the master's lessons.

He is later rewarded for his persistence and intelligence. In a note that prefaces the story authors Frances and Ginger Park write that their book was inspired by the true story of their grandfather's experiences.

Is it any good?

Brave and determined Song-ho is so good, so kind, and so determined to become a scholar that he hardly seems real, and his mother, his teacher, and his classmates feel equally remote. Readers may ask if Song-ho's mother ever wondered what her son did all day, of if any of Song-ho's privileged classmates ever resented the boy's acceptance into school. Or how the teacher managed to break school rules and accept Song-ho as a student without suffering consequences. The inconsistencies in the illustration are frequent and noticeable.

Despite the limitations of the characters' emotional lives, the story is an inspirational one for children, and perhaps for teachers too. Child readers cannot miss the message that an education is essential for a child's secure future. Song-ho comes right out and asks the question, "How can I grow up to earn a good living for my mother when I cannot read or write?"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Song-ho's determination. What kind of future does he face without an education? How does he earn the respect of his teachers and classmates?

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