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About The Book

Perfect for fans of the Storm Runner and Aru Shah series, this “intriguing, fast-paced” (Kirkus Reviews) middle grade fantasy follows a young girl who must venture to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King in Korea to save her parents from an evil diviner spirit.

Twelve-year old Lia Park just wants to fit in. Her parents work with a mysterious organization that makes them ridiculously overprotective. Lia’s every move has been scrutinized since she was born, and she’d love to have the option of doing something exciting for once. So when she gets invited to the biggest birthday party of the year—and her parents say she can’t go—Lia sneaks out.

But her first act of rebellion not only breaks her parents’ rules, but also an ancient protection spell, allowing an evil diviner spirit to kidnap and ransom her parents for a powerful jewel that her family has guarded for years. With just the clothes on her back and some very rusty magical skills, Lia finds herself chasing mysterious clues that take her to her grandmother’s home in Korea.

From there, she has to make their way to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King, the only person who knows where the powerful jewel might be. Along with her friend, Joon, Lia must dig deep and find courage to stand up for those who are weak—and become the hero her parents need.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide

Lia Park and the Missing Jewel

By Jenna Yoon

About the Book

Lia Park and her best friend Joon spend their afternoons practicing the skills they’ll need to get into the International Magic Agency’s magical school. But Lia isn’t sure she’ll ever be a part of IMA. Even though Joon discovered his magical power ages ago, Lia’s haven’t developed yet. In fact, she’s starting to think they never will. Lia decides it’s time to make some nonmagic friends, whether her parents agree or not. She sneaks out, against her parents’ wishes, to attend the birthday party of the most popular girl at school. In the process, she accidentally breaks a magical protection spell, with disastrous consequences. Lia’s parents are kidnapped, and Lia is catapulted into a world of dark shadows and evil spirits. To rescue Umma and Appa from the malicious spirit Gaya, Lia must follow the clues her parents left from her suburban California home across the world to Korea and into magical realms she’s never even imagined. With the support of the faithful—if sometimes annoying—Joon, Lia must draw on her own hidden talents and find deep courage within herself to rescue her parents and save the world.

Discussion Questions

1. Lia’s adventures begin after she sneaks out to Dior’s birthday party. Why does Lia want to attend the party? What happens while she is there? Does the party turn out how she’d hoped it would?

2. Why does Lia want to be friends with Dior? Is Dior a true friend to her? In what ways are Dior and Joon, Lia’s best friend, different? What makes Joon a true friend to Lia?

3. When Lia returns home after Dior’s party, she encounters sinister black smoke. What is the smoke, and what does it do?

4. Who is Gaya? What powers does she have? What does she want from Lia?

5. Lia blames herself for her parents’ kidnapping. Do you think it’s Lia’s fault? Why or why not?

6. Lia’s family is originally from Korea, and their Korean culture is an important part of their lives. They speak in both Korean and English at home, eat Korean food, and still have family back in Korea. What is your family’s ethnic background? How does it show up in your family life?

7. Lia says, “My lowest moment didn’t feel as bad with Joon around.” (Chapter five) What is Joon like? What about him makes Lia feel better in low moments? What is your best friend like, and how do they help lift you up when you are feeling down?

8. Why do Lia’s parents put a magic blocking spell on her? Do you think they were right to block her magic and keep her heritage a secret from her?

9. Lia often thinks her parents have too many rules. Do you ever feel like this? Why do you think parents make rules for their children?

10. At the start of the book, after forbidding her to go to the party, Lia’s mom prepares her a beautiful meal. Lia observes:​

Umma must’ve felt bad, because she had prepared some of my favorite foods. In the middle of the table was a platter of neatly lined-up yubuchobap, soybean curd stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, and veggies. Next to it was a bowl of gungjung tteokbokki. Everyone makes these differently, but I loved Umma’s version using thin oval rice cakes with sliced cabbage, mushrooms, beef, and onions, all sauteed in soy sauce and sesame oil. [Chapter three]

Lia loves her mom’s food. Have you ever tasted any of these Korean foods? What special foods do your parents or other adults in your life cook for you?

11. Why do you think Lia is so glad to have Joon along with her as she searches for her parents and the jewel? If you had to complete a quest like this, who would you want to have along with you, and why?

12. How did Lia’s parents leave behind clues for her to follow? Why do Lia’s parents leave her coded clues instead of telling her where to go and what to do?

13. When Lia arrives at her grandmother’s house, Halmoni reveals that Lia is a Hwarang. What is a Hwarang? What does being a Hwarang mean for Lia?

14. How do things go when Lia casts her first spell? Have you ever had things go badly when you were learning something new? How did you find the strength to keep trying?

15. Lia says “I didn’t know why they insisted on speaking Korean to me when they spoke perfect English. They had said it’s because it’s important and it’s who I am, but I just spoke English back to them.” (Chapter two) Why do you think Lia’s parents insist on speaking Korean to her? Why does she resist? Do your parents do anything to try to pass on your family culture or background to you? How do you feel about it?

16. What is Lia like? What personality traits does she have that will help her on her quest? What are her weaknesses? How does she change over the course of the book?

17. Why do Lia and Joon want to be a part of the International Magic Agency? Would you like to attend a magical school? What would you want to learn there?

18. Lia carries with her a “secret stash of nifty things that a good agent might need in an emergency.” (Chapter one) What does she include in her stash? How does her stash end up helping her? Are you good at being prepared, like Lia? If you were going to carry a secret emergency kit, what would you put in it, and why?

19. In Lia’s world, each magical person develops a single magical talent at some point in their lives. If you could have a magical talent, what would it be?

20. How does Lia eventually find the jewel she needs to save her parents? What does this show you about what she is like?

21. Who is the Dragon King? What powers does he have? Why does the Dragon King allow Lia to get the jewel?

22. The Dragon King tells Lia that the “jewel will test you.” (Chapter nineteen) In what ways does the jewel test Lia? Do you agree with the decision she made to use the jewel, even after the Dragon King’s warning?

23. Several times in the novel, Lia must dig deep to find the courage to do something difficult to save her family. Have you ever had to find the strength to do something, even though you were really scared? What was it, and how did you find that strength?

24. Halmoni doesn’t want Lia to go looking for her parents, but Lia insists on doing it anyway. Why? Do you think she made the right choice, or should she have let the adults handle the situation?

25. In what ways does Lia’s knowledge of her family’s Korean culture help her on her quest to rescue her parents?

26. A lot of this story takes place in Korea. How is the setting important to the story? Do you think this book could have been set somewhere else?

27. Who does Gaya turn out to be? Were you surprised by the book’s ending?

28. In the end, Gaya saves Joon by sacrificing her own life. Do you think her actions redeemed her character?

Extension Activities

1. Every year for Lia’s birthday, her parents plan a treasure hunt for her. Lia’s treasure hunt skills come in handy after Gaya kidnaps her parents, as she follows the clues her parents have left her to find what she needs to stay safe and rescue them. Make your own treasure hunt for a friend or family member. If you’d like, you can try creating three-part clues like Lia’s family uses: the first part of the clue leads you to a place or object; the second part tells you where to look once you’re at that location; and the third part tells you what to do in that location.

2. Create a picture album of the book’s key characters, including Lia, Joon, Gaya, the Dragon King, and anyone else you found vital to the story. You can use pencil, paints, markers, or even make a collage to illustrate what you think each character in the book looks like. Under each character’s picture, write a brief description of what they do in the book and what that tells you about their personalities.

3. Write two newspaper articles about the final scenes of the book—one for the magical newspaper and one for the nonmagical one. What will each newspaper say about what happened? How will the stories be different? If you’d like, you can print out your articles to share with your friends and family.

4. At the end of the book, Lia finds out that both she and Joon have gotten into the International Magic School. Write a short story sequel to Lia Park and the Missing Jewel that describes Lia’s and Joon’s first year at magic school.

5. Near the end of the book, Joon has a surprising encounter with Gaya. Imagine you are Joon, and write a diary entry about this encounter. What happens? How does it make you feel? What do you think it meant for your future?

6. Create a video “book commercial” for this book to encourage other kids to read it. Share what you liked best about the book, and why you think other kids should read it, too. Be sure to include teasers about Lia’s adventures, but don’t spoil anything for future readers!

Chris Clark is a writer and reading teacher who lives with her family in coastal Maine.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Jenna Yoon studied Art History at Wellesley College and received her master’s degree in Korean art history from Ewha Womans University. She’s lived about half her life in both Korea and the United States. When she’s not writing, Jenna loves to travel, find yummy eats, play board games, and take skin care very seriously. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two kids.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (May 3, 2022)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534487956
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 590L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

"Fun and fast-paced, this debut novel will please the Rick Riordan Presents crowd."

– Booklist Online

"Lia Park is an exciting new protagonist in the fantasy adventure scene."

– School Library Journal

"An intriguing, fast-paced fantasy adventure."

– Kirkus Reviews, 5/1/22

"Lia Park is an exciting new protagonist in the fantasy adventure scene."

– School Library Journal

"An intriguing, fast-paced fantasy adventure."

– Kirkus Reviews, 5/1/22

Awards and Honors

  • Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Intermediate Title

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More books from this author: Jenna Yoon

More books in this series: Lia Park