Kimchi & Calamari, by Rose Kent, is a wonderful coming-of-age story about a boy who was born in Korea and adopted by very traditional Italian-American parents who live in New Jersey. A school assignment to write a paper about family heritage ultimately leads 14-year-old Joseph Calderaro on a quest to learn more about his Korean heritage and himself.
The book is funny and the characters believable and endearing.While Joseph doesn’t ultimately find what he desperately wants (his birth mother), he does come to terms with his identity. Along the way his parents, who were once reluctant to discuss his adoption, learn the importance of embracing his Korean culture and past.
The author is the mother of four children, all of whom have Korean heritage and two of whom are adopted. She understands the issues adoptive children struggle with and doesn’t sugarcoat the pain that comes from not knowing birth parents. But this novel is not simply about transracial adoption; it is a brilliant story of an adolescent struggling with issues all teens struggle with — first crushes, school dances, silly mistakes and, most importantly, who they are. It is well written, funny and the characters are identifiable and interesting. The parents and siblings are portrayed very realistically and the family conversations are funny and heart-warming. This is a great book to have on your book shelf. Your child will surely identify with Joseph and his struggle with his past and his present.
Kimchi & Calamari
By Rose Kent
Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2007