Posted in picture books

An unexpected nature preserve crops up in the DMZ

When Spring Comes to the DMZ, by Uk-Bae Lee, (March 2019, Plough Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9780874869729

Ages 4-8

Established in 1953, The DMZ – the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea – has, over time, become a nature preserve, with plants and animals living and thriving amid the razor wire, soldiers, and military machines. When the Spring Comes to the DMZ introduces readers to the DMZ throughout the seasons, illustrating how wildlife lives almost effortlessly – razor wire ever-present in the background, husks of man-made machinery now home to animal families – and through the eyes of a boy and his grandfather, who visit the DMZ so grandfather can look out at his former home with bittersweet longing. It’s a reaffirmation that life goes on for some, but for others, that life is painfully halted in place, while years pass.

The artwork is beautifully subdued, with soft greens and browns dominating the pages. The story is told in simple, sweet, almost heartbreaking statements: “When spring comes to the DMZ, green shoots spring up in the meadows./But you cannot go there because the razor wire fence is blocking the way”. This spread, viewed as through a telescope, puts us in grandfather’s place, and communicates some of the heartache he must feel; having home be so close, yet unreachable.

When Spring Comes to the DMZ is a book that works for social studies and current events read-alouds, and would pair nicely with similar books about refugees and immigrants, including Anne Sibley O’Brien’s Someone New and I’m New Here and Bao Phi’s A Different Pond. Reading When Spring Comes to the DMZ alongside Nicola Davies’ When War Came allows for a discussion about the aftermath of war; while DMZ doesn’t mention the Korean War in the story itself, the back matter fills in necessary information, along with an exhortation for peace. There is little in print for children about the North Korea and the DMZ, making this an important book to include in social studies and current events collections.

When Spring Comes to the DMZ has a starred review from Kirkus. Shelf Awareness has a wonderfully detailed review.



I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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