Sunday, December 23, 2007

Book Review: Kimchi & Calamari

Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent. Grades 4-7.

There are orphans in many kids books. Orphans and foster kids. Lots and lots of them. Most of them don't have a happy family life. So it's refreshing to find a book about a kid with a solid, caring family. That is not to say that family life is always easy for Joseph Calderaro. Sure, he has an extremely loving set of parents. And he has a pair of younger sisters who are annoying sometimes, but whom he loves and watches out for. But the fact is that he was born in Korea and adopted into the very Italian Calderaro family. And in this book, that causes him a little trouble...

Joseph's trouble starts when his social studies teacher assigns an essay. This particular essay is about family heritage. Although his father is always telling him stories about his Italian relatives, Joseph wants to write his essay about his own heritage. His Korean heritage. The problem is that he doesn't know anything about his birth relatives and his mom and dad don't either. What results is a funny, thoughtful story about the meaning of family.

Joseph feels strange when his dad gives him a corno, a goat horn pendant that's a traditional Italian symbol. He feels equally strange when he visits the home of a new Korean boy at his school and he doesn't know to take his shoes off when he goes in and has trouble using chopsticks. The truth of the matter is that Joseph isn't just Korean or just Italian... he's a mixture of both. He's an "ethnic sandwich" as he describes it. And as he starts to figure himself out, he'll realize that maybe he can have the best of both worlds. Kimchi and calamari.

For another funny, thoughtful book with an adopted Asian protagonist, check out Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick.

For more reviews of this book, check out The Longstockings, MotherReader, Becky's Book Reviews, Jen Robinson's Book Page, and Library & Literary Miscellany. There's also a post on Fuse #8 with Rose Kent's thoughts on adoption. Kimchi and Calamari is nominated for a Cybil and it's on Anderson's Mock Newbery list. Whew!