This wordless picturebook is by two South Koreans, author Jae-hyuk Cha and illustrator Eun-young Choi. In Korean the title is 500 Won, while in Polish it is 5 Złotych. In both countries the title signifies a coin of lowish value, which in this story is gleaming unnoticed under the table in the opening pages.
Its actual value (approximately £1 or €1) is much less significant than the protagonist’s perception of its value. When the young boy and his dog discover the coin on a boring afternoon, it’s like finding buried treasure – and the start of an adventure.
To the boy, it represents infinite riches that could buy a new dress for his mum, a computer for his dad, or treats for his dog – and we see him happily window-shopping in the busy high street. But what will his coin actually buy? And will it be something he’d truly like?
The restricted colour palette of muted greys, blues, greens and soft coral is stylish and gentle on the eye. Despite the inclusion of a modern computer store, the shops, interiors and human characters have a mid-century feel about them. Dresses are shown on wooden dummies, and hats are displayed on a hat-stands in a milliner’s shop.
There is plenty of humour in this little book and much of it comes from the visual portrayal of the various characters – at home and in the street, walking their pooches or carrying their shopping. One man wears a trilby, another smokes a pipe and a woman has a head scarf tied under her chin. The boy’s dad is asleep in his chair, gently snoozing with his book lying on lap, mouth open and glasses perched on his head, while Mum, wearing a traditional apron, is busy with chores.
The boy’s true companion – the only one aware of what is he is up to – is the dog, a loyal playmate who welcomes the boy when he returns with the fruits of his unexpected spree.
This wordless picturebook is a warm-hearted and comforting story that shows a real understanding of how young children actually think about money, and what – and whom – really matter to them.