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Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent
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Kimchi & Calamari

by Rose Kent

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Fourteen-year-old Joseph was born in Korea and adopted as a baby by an Italian-American couple. This usually doesn't seem to bother him much but when first his teacher assigns a research project into each student's ancestry and then a Korean family moves into town, Joseph begins questioning his identity and feeling like a fraudulent Korean who doesn't quite fit in no matter where he is.

This book is a well-done example of a realistic novel for tweens and young teens. Joseph's problems are relatable and not necessarily traumatic like in a lot of YA books. Although his situation is very specific, the concept of feeling not quite in one category nor another is likely universal amongst the target age group (e.g., no longer a child but not yet an adult). The plot tackles other everyday problems as well, such as finding a date for the big dance, juggling chores and homework, connecting meaningfully with parents, etc.

The colloquial language fits well with this book then, and it flows easily and quickly for the most part. However, Kent has some of the worst metaphors I have ever encountered including such lines as: "But suddenly I felt empty -- like the soda bottle in my hand;" "Rain sprinkled on my face like salt on french fries;" and "God, she was perfect. Even her hair, what with how it was flipped back with silver clips like the stanchions on the Verrazano Bridge."

The portrayal of Joseph's family is a smidge over the top with how very stereotypically Italian they are, but I think that may have been in part to highlight Joseph's feelings of not quite fitting in. Overall though, I would recommend this book as a decent offering into becoming more aware of different cultures. It definitely gives kids a chance to explore how other people who may not look like them or who have slightly unusual circumstances are still just like them in many ways. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jun 4, 2017 |
Fourteen-year-old Joseph is of Korean descent, adopted as an infant by his Italian family, the Calderaros. He's a happily accepted the Italian culture and cuisine that's become part of his life, but when a teacher assigns an essay to research family background, Joseph is uncomfortable because he doesn't know anything about his Korean heritage. A fictional essay he writes gets him into trouble but an internet search may lead him to his real mother. Unfortunately, the lead does not pan out but his questioning about his heritage and family life help him see he can be comfortable with life as an "ethnic sandwich."
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
A decent read about a kid adopted transnationally from Korea by an Italian family in New Jersey. Kid searches for his ethnic and family identity, etc. I found it interesting because of the subject matter, but there were several subplots that weren't followed through to their conclusion, which was a bit frustrating. Perhaps the author is leaving room for a sequel. Also, both the Italian and the Korean family featured were quite stereotyped. Interesting but not great. ( )
  Marared9 | Feb 5, 2012 |
This is a humorous, touching story about Joseph, a 14-year-old boy, and his journey for self-acceptance and ancestral understanding. When Joseph was just a few days old, he was abandoned and left in a basket in the city of Pusan, Korea. Joseph was subsequently adopted and raised by a traditional Italian New Jersey family. Joseph is forced to confront his heritage when his English teacher assigns an ancestral history paper. Joseph fabricates a fake story about his ancestors, who in reality he knows nothing about. The story centers on Joseph's growing curiosity about his Korean roots, his quest to find answers, and reconciling his Italian-American upbringing with his Korean appearance-- all the while gaining the attention and affection of his crush interest, Kelly. An enjoyable book that adolescents of all backgrounds can relate to. ( )
  DayehSensei | Jul 21, 2011 |
Personal Response:

Kent is a funny, touching writer. Adolescents trying to figure out their own lives will relate to Joseph as he struggles to find who he is and how he fits into the world. Joseph cheats on his essay, but he is honorable enough to come forward with the truth, regardless of the consequences. Joseph’s relationship with Kelly is truthful, as he moves from infatuation to excitement at taking her out to the realization that looks are not everything.

Curricular or Programming Connections:

Students could write their own versions of the Tracing Your Past: A Heritage Essay assignment that Joseph is given, writing about their own families
  hsollom | Aug 9, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060837691, Hardcover)

Kimchi and calamari. It sounds like a quirky food fusion of Korean and Italian cuisine, and it's exactly how Joseph Calderaro feels about himself. Why wouldn't an adopted Korean drummer—comic book junkie feel like a combo platter given:

(1) his face in the mirror

(2) his proud Italian family.

And now Joseph has to write an essay about his ancestors for social studies. All he knows is that his birth family shipped his diapered butt on a plane to the USA. End of story. But what he writes leads to a catastrophe messier than a table of shattered dishes—and self-discovery that Joseph never could have imagined.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Adopted from Korea by Italian parents, fourteen-year-old Joseph Calderaro begins to make important self-discoveries about race and family after his social studies teacher assigns an essay on cultural heritage and tracing the past.

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