Book Pick – The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Despite my feelings on ebooks, I had gotten a little bored one evening and decided to download this new app through our library for digital book releases. Had it not been for this little bout of mental wandering, I would have never come across The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Since it has been out since 2012 and won a Pulitzer in 2013, it’s possible you have already read it. But on the off chance that you have not, this is my review of an incredible novel – even as an ebook.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”

There are two parts to The Orphan Master’s Son. Part 1 is called “The Biography of Jun Do” and Part 2, “The Confessions of Commander Ga”. The story has three narrators: The Loudspeaker (or propaganda story), Jun Do and the Interrogator. Part 1 details the story of Jun Do’s upbringing in a state orphanage and what it means to be an orphan in North Korea. It follows his life as he becomes a kidnapper, a fisherman and eventually a delegate to the United States. In this part of the book only Jun Do and the Loudspeaker (slowly telling the propaganda story of Sun Moon and Commander Ga) are present. 

Part 2 is narrated by Jun Do, the Loudspeaker and a North Korean Interrogator who has taken the national hero Commander Ga into custody. It is like hearing two stories simultaneously being weaved together by 3 people. In the first part you learn that something has happened to Sun Moon and the second part slowly unravels the mystery. It also gives you a unique perspective on how the bizarre news stories that one hears come out of North Korea are created. 

“Where we are from, he said, stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he’d be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.”

Although a fictional piece of work, The Orphan Master’s Son does provide a rare glimpse into the true heart of the people and their surroundings in the DPRK. There is so much darkness and pain in this book that Adam Johnson somehow miraculously balances with a sort of dark comedy and a love story that reaches far beyond the Orwellian landscape. It is certainly not a story that you will forget after reading. It captured me for weeks in and I found myself reading articles and stories about North Korean defectors and their families. 

“I wonder of what you must daily endure in America, having no government to protect you, no one to tell you what to do. Is it true you’re given no ration card, that you must find food for yourself? Is it true that you labor for no higher purpose than paper money? What is California, this place you come from? I have never seen a picture. What plays over the American loudspeakers, when is your curfew, what is taught at your child-rearing collectives? Where does a woman go with her children on Sunday afternoons, and if a woman loses her husband, how does she know the government will assign her a good replacement? With whom would she curry favor to ensure her children got the best Youth Troop leader?”

There is so much we don’t know about North Korea as it remains estranged to most of the world. The Orphan Master’s Son brings a kind of awareness that opens your eyes to the people there and how hard it is for them to escape to freedom, to reintegrate into society and so on. To give a very real idea of what being an orphan is like in North Korea, listen to a once-upon-a-time orphan boy who had lived in DPRK roughly during the same time as the fictional Jun Do. 


If after reading you feel inclined to help, please take a look at Liberty in North Korea. You can read stories about people who have been rescued, record a message of hope to those who are waiting (or in hiding), and/or help to procure funds to assist in a rescue or resettlement. 


North Korean Rescue Costs

“With fiction, I would suggest that there is a position at the table for trying to give a voice to the most voiceless people in the world. The literary endeavor, the humanist endeavor, is based on the premise that we’re all the same, and I believe that. When you talk to North Koreans or read their stories, you can be shocked by things they’ve seen in the famine or traumas they have been through, but what strikes me the most is how much we have in common. They want the same things: safety, security, a better future for their kids, self-definition, everything I want. So I think that a fiction writer can project humanity inward, based on the assumption they are just like us.” – Adam Johnson Interview with Washington Post

You can pick up The Orphan Master’s Son at your local library, on Amazon or (most likely) in any book store near you.

Manda Signature


If you would like to follow along with my next Book Pick, I’m currently reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande!

ROBOTS-4-U and Dynamic Art & Design Summer Camps Now Enrolling: Using Both Technology and Creativity!

~I received compensation in exchange for this post. Opinions and stories are my own.~


Summer will be here before you know it and I try and prepare activities in advance to keep things from getting to boring around here when the time comes. That is why I usually sign my girls up for interesting summer camps. I want ones that either stimulate the mind in fun and exciting ways or involve sports. Both ROBOTS-4-U and Dynamic Art & Design are camps that focus on S.T.E.A.M. which is Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math! They sound like so much fun I wish I could go!

Robot Camps and Dynamic Art Camps are offered during June, July and August. These two camps are for girls and boys aged 7 to 14 and involve hands on learning and self-paced from beginner level to expert. Each camp runs 1 week (5 days) long, Monday to Friday 9:00-11:30a.m. and 12:30-3:00 p.m.

Check out some of the robots that some campers made in this short video.

Each Camper Individually uses a ROBOTICS or DYNAMIC ART Kit. Robot kits do not go home with campers but are available for purchase.

At Dynamic Art campers build unique art projects that are animated. I really like that these camps have a camper ratio that is 1 instructor to 16 participants.

Campers will have a BLAST, while learning and playing in a dynamic environment. Learning about Robotics and Science, in an independent and exciting way! Visit the site ROBOTS-4-U and dynamic-art-design to see dates and locations for these day camps. Make sure to register early as camps do fill up quickly and you want to make sure to get the week that works best for your family. I still have amazing memories from the day camps I went to when I was a child and I plan for my girls to experience those exciting things too.

Here is a special code for 60% off Robotics Science Summer Camps just use code: USF1550r


DreamWorks’ Penguins of Madagascar Easter DVD/Blu-ray + Giveaway {US & CAN}

~I am a Fox Home Entertainment Insider and received a copy of PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR for review. Opinions and stories are my own.~


Those insanely adorable little penguins are back! From the creators of Madagascar comes the Penguins of Madagascar, a new movie about global espionage and super spies! Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private join forces with the elite North Wind team to save the world in the most crazy way possible.


Your favorite penguins even came out with a Limited Time Easter DVD/Blu-ray Pack with 2 hopping Penguin toys! Tot absolutely loves his and so I know this pack would be the perfect Easter gift. You may have seen it in the stores already. I know I’ve come across it at Walmart!

Penguins of Madagascar Easter Pack

Penguins of Madagascar features the voice talents of John Malkovich (“Crossbones” Red 2), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and Ken Jeong (The Hangover), joining Tom McGrath, Chris Miller and Christopher Knights, who are reprising their roles as the Penguins from the Madagascar franchise. The Blu-ray/DVD features a lot of great bonus materials that will get you dancing and that the kids are going to love!

  • Top-Secret Guide to Becoming an Elite Agent
  • “He Is Dave” Music Video 
  • Fipper Slap Shake Waddle and Roll
  • “Celebrate” Music Video by Pitbull
  • Do the Penguin Shake with tWitch
  • Deleted Scene
  • Madagascar Mash-Up
  • Global Flight Plan
  • Cheezy Dibbles Ad
  • World of Dreamworks Animation
  • Gallery

The film also brings in a lot of new faces. A gray wolf named Classified, a harp seal demolitionist named Short Fuse, Corporal the Polar Bear and Eva the snow owl. 

Coloring Page of North Wind Spy Team - Penguins of Madagascar

Click on the image to enlarge for printing.

You can have a lot of fun with the kids by printing out activity sheets, coloring pages and paper crafts of their favorite characters to go along with the movie below!

 If you’d like to learn about these crazy guys, you can follow them on Facebook

Giveaway: How would you like to win your own Penguins of Madagascar Blu-ray/DVD Easter Pack! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter Form below for your chance to win!

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The Littlest Bunny by Lily Jacobs + Giveaway {US & CAN}

~This is not a sponsored post. Product for giveaway sponsored by Sourcebooks.~

Easter is just over a week away and pretty soon the Easter Bunny is going to be busy, busy, busy hiding eggs, but how does that bunny do it? 

The Littlest Bunny by Lily Jacobs

In Lily Jacobs “The Littlest Bunny”, Flop travels in an air balloon full of Easter eggs and visits some of our favorite landmarks, including famous sites like the Statue of Liberty in New York, California’s Hollywood sign, the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, Georgia’s Fox Theater, Churchill Downs in Kentucky, and many more. There are 77 regional Littlest Bunny books that feature 50 states and also cities in Canada. In each story there is also an Easter egg hunt game where children can search for hidden eggs on each page!

I thought this was a very cute way of sharing the fun tradition of the Easter Bunny with little ones and it would make an adorable gift in their Easter basket. I’ve always had a soft spot for these regional style stories that show favorite characters swooshing through well known areas to kids. It offers a sort of personalization that brings it close to home. Although most books will showcase the most famous state landmarks, they also share other locations throughout the states.

You can find The Littlest Bunny at Sourcebooks for $9.99. They also have an amazing catalog of books for adults and teens. My most favorite product from them is the t-shirts that say, “Authors Are My Rock Stars”, one which is generic, and another with Jane Austin and Edgar Allen Poe with sunglasses. 

Giveaway: I’m also happy to say we get to give away one The Little Bunny books! The winner will get to choose which regional book they would like out of the 77 titles available. To enter the giveaway, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

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