The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

2020 Honorable Mention – Children’s Literature

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, Illustrated by Jess X. Snow (Kokila Press)

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 centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.

Tina Cho’s The Ocean Calls, with luminous illustrations by muralist Jess X. Snow, is a classic in the making.

Other Awards:

  • Fall 2020 Kids’ Indie Next List
  • Kirkus Best Children’s Books 2020
  • Junior Library Guild selection