The Color of Earth is the first in a trilogy of graphic novels about a young girl named Ehwa and her widowed mother who owns a tavern in a small Korean village. The story takes place in a time before that country was geographically split by war.
Author Kim Dong Hwa creates beautiful images that work with the narrative to tell this story of two generations of women. While the story may seem simple as it follows Ehwa from young girl to young adult, it is filled with rich symbolism that you will want to savor as you read. Flowers symbolize many things in the story, and the characters are often associating flowers with someone they love. Also, you get the sense that young Ehwa is beginning to bloom just as the flowers do.
As Ehwa grows, she is confused by the changes in her body, and the information she gets from friends about those changes only confuses her more. Mother and daughter don’t talk about the changes before they occur, but Ehwa does turn to her mother to answer the questions she has. The narrative provides an interesting way to bring up topics like boys having wet dreams and girls starting their periods. The words are simple, but combined with the images they are powerful. While this book is targeted to a young adult audience and these concepts won’t be new to most readers, it can be a jumping off point for further discussion.
I recommend The Color of Earth for mother-daughter book clubs with girls who are 13 or older. In addition to talking about maturing bodies, other points to discuss include first love, Buddhist monks, and life in a small village.