small text medium text large text

BLAST Elementary
The Firekeeper's Son

The Firekeeper's Son
Written by Linda Sue Park

Illustrated by Julie Downing

In Korea in the early 1800s, news from the countryside reached the king by means of signal fires. On one mountaintop after another, a fire was lit when all was well. If the king did not see a fire, that meant trouble, and he would send out his army.

Sang-hee, son of the village firekeeper, must take his father's place one night and light the fire. Sang-hee knows how important it is for the fire to be lit, but he wishes that he could see soldiers... just once.


Open-Ended Questions

These questions can be used during an interactive read aloud to engage student interest.

  • Why do they use fires to communicate? What does that tell us about the setting? (page 13)
  • Why has the fire not been lit? (page 19)
  • What does the author mean by, "he knew the path like a friend?" (page 20)
  • Why is the decision to light the fire so hard for Sang-hee? What is he thinking about? (page 27)
  • Why do you think the village will be pleased with Sang-hee? (page 35)

Vocabulary Words

  • Fortunate
  • Trustworthy


Create Your Own Simile

A simile is a comparison that uses "like" or "as", often to compare two things that are not usually alike. Similes add strong imagery to a story and help convey different ways of looking at events, objects, etc. Deciphering the meaning behind a simile requires students to make inferences, a critical reading skill. Using similes found in the text, discuss with your students what these passages mean. Encourage them to think of their own similes for everyday comparisons that are often overused (like "tired as a dog"). For example, they could finish the phrase "tired as a ______" or "sly as a ______".

Where is Korea?

The country of Korea in The Firekeeper's Son looks different from the Korea of today. Locate Korea on a map and discuss how Korea today is broken into two countries, North Korea and South Korea. Working from this knowledge, your students can research different aspects of life in Korea today using nonfiction books or websites. To display their work, students create posters to share what they learned with the rest of the class.



Journal Questions

  • The story showed us how the people of Korea used fires to warn the King's palace of trouble. What are some ways that we communicate or warn people of trouble today?

Sometimes making the right decision is difficult to do. Have you ever wanted to make the wrong decision but chose to do the right thing? What happened and how did you feel?



Extending Books

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie
Written by Peter and Connie Roop

Pictures by Peter E. Hanson


In the winter of 1856, a storm delays the lighthouse keeper's return to an island off the coast of Maine, and his daughter Abbie must keep the lights burning by herself.


They're Off!: The Story of the Pony Express
by Cheryl Harness

Relates the history of the Pony Express from when it began to carry messages across the American West in April 1860 until the telegraph replaced it in October 1861


Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (poems)
Written by Linda Sue Park

Pictures by Istvan Banyai

Sijo is a traditional Korean form of poetry. Sijo is syllabic, like Japanese haiku, with three lines of 14 to 16 syllables each: the first two introduce the topic, the third and fourth lines develop it, and the fifth and sixth lines contain an unexpected humorous or ironic twist. This collection contains 26 sijo.