Ben Lee: The Magic Lunchbox by Hanna Kim | Illustrations by Emily Paik

Hello, Hanna Kim! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read! Thank you for stopping by to discuss Ben Lee: The Magic Lunchbox. What ran through your heart the first time you saw Emily Paik’s cover illustration and Jaime Willems’s cover design?

Hanna Kim: Hi John! I’m so glad to be here, chatting with you about Ben Lee: The Magic Lunchbox! I was SO excited when I first saw Emily Paik’s cover. I strongly advocated to have a Korean illustrator so that the pictures would accurately portray the Korean characters. Emily did such a great job capturing the details of each character, especially Mark! Best of all, Mark’s shocked expression makes you want to find out what in the world is happening to his lunchbox!

Scenario: Imagine you’re booktalking Ben Lee: The Magic Lunchbox to second graders. What do you share with them?

Hanna Kim: Ben Lee: The Magic Lunchbox is about a kid named Ben who wants to fit in but realizes that you don’t have to change who you are to do so. He starts with a small wish after other kids at his new school make fun of his Korean lunch, but the magic gets stronger and spirals out of control! This is a story I felt like I NEEDED to write, because there were lots of times I felt like Ben as a kid, and it made me sad to think other kids might have the same experience. I hope that readers who read this book become proud of their culture and who they are!

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Ben Lee is a representation of kids who want to feel like they belong. He’s a 4th grader who just moved to a new school. It’s scary, especially when he gets made fun of on the first day. He’s someone anyone can relate to, including me, and it’s amazing to see how he grows and changes throughout the book!

Korean food is comfort. For so long, I was embarrassed to eat Korean food in public, even though I loved it so much. Now, I’ve decided to be proud of it; to OWN it! It gives me so much comfort and feels like home.

John Schu, you should have asked me what my favorite Korean food is! I have SO many, but just like Ben, my favorite is kimbap. Kimbap is a delicious mix of rice, ground beef, vegetables, pickled radish, and more all wrapped into a roll with seaweed. I would highly recommend everyone to try it, if they haven’t already!

Congratulations, Hanna! 

Look for Ben Lee: The Magic Lunchbox on August 1, 2023. 


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