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Kimchi & Calamari Hardcover – April 10, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Hardcover, April 10, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–Joseph Calderaro is facing many woes typical of a 14-year-old boy. However, trouble with girls, school, his younger twin sisters, and his parents is complicated by his growing awareness of the gulf between his Korean ethnicity and the Italian heritage of his adoptive family, especially his father. A school assignment is the catalyst for his search for information about his birth family. Communication between father and son reaches a low point when Joseph refuses to wear his birthday present of a corno (golden horn), proudly worn by Italian men to ward off the malocchio. His father insists that Joseph became Italian the day he was adopted. This lack of sensitivity is presented sympathetically, as the Calderaros can only focus on the joy of their bonding. The boy's status as a well-liked student and honest guy is jeopardized when he claims a famous Korean marathoner as his grandfather. A subplot involves an immigrant family from Korea, the Hans. Joseph's parents eventually appreciate his search for his identity, and they reach out to the Hans to help him learn about his culture. Kent has done an excellent job of creating a likable protagonist whose confusion about his status is touching, and also funny. This is one of the best of the recent spate of books about adolescent adoptees facing quests to establish their identities.–Deborah Vose, Highlands Elementary School, Braintree, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Fourteen-year-old Korean adoptee Joseph Calderaro is stumped when his social studies teacher assigns an ancestry essay. Joseph knows very little about his background (and his parents are not very forthcoming with details), so he pretends that Olympic marathoner Sohn Kee Chung was his grandfather, and creates an award-winning essay to that effect. Once his lie is unmasked, however, Joseph must redo the assignment, which prompts him to begin a committed search for his birth family. Kent's debut novel humorously captures the feelings of a young teen who thoroughly enjoys his Italian-American family but still wonders about his birth parents and the circumstances that led to his abandonment. His search ultimately leads him to a young woman who may be his cousin. Subplots involving Joseph's younger sisters, crushes on several girls in his class, and a new Korean friend round out the action and keep the story light. This will have special appeal for adoptees, but the questions about family roots that Kent raises are universal. Kay Weisman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 750L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060837691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060837693
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,404,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer Robinson on November 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's tough to be adopted, wondering which of your personality traits and physical characteristics came from someone you've never even met. It's even harder when you're Korean, and your family is Italian-American (including your much younger twin sisters, who are not adopted). To have your social studies teacher go and assign an essay about tracing your family heritage feels like having salt rubbed into a wound. And to have that essay assigned on your fourteenth birthday, well, that's just icing on the cake.

For New Jersey eighth grader Joseph Calderaro, the heritage essay ignites a passion for research into his birth family - a difficult search, given that he was found in Pusan, abandoned by the waterfront in a police station parking lot. The research doesn't sit so well with Joseph's proud Italian-American father, however, provoking family discord and internal conflict. In many ways, Joseph's quest is every teen's quest, to understand where he fits into the world and how he's both part of and unique from his family. In Joseph's case, however, the stakes are higher, and some of the necessary information is missing.

Fortunately for the reader of Rose Kent's debut novel, Kimchi & Calamari, Joseph's cultural identify quest is lightened considerably by being juxtaposed against another important coming of age quest: to secure a date for the Farewell Formal. We also see Joseph goofing around during band practice (he plays the drums), taking care of and being annoyed by his younger sisters, and exchanging jokes with his friend Robyn. These scenes keep Joseph real and accessible for all readers.
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Format: Hardcover
I first picked up this book because it sounded interesting and because our daughter is adopted and I know eventually she'll come home one day from school with homework on her family tree or heritage. I really liked this book and liked how the main character Joseph did his final paper on how he is a ethnic sandwich... being Korean on the outside and Italian on the inside. I enjoyed learning about Korea, a little about it's culture and the great Olympian Sohn Kee Chung.

This would be a terrific book for adopted children, teachers to read themselves and out loud to their class. As well as for all teachers to realize there are other ways to do the Family Tree / Heritage papers. With Korean children I think that it's neat that there is a way for Korean children to find siblings and parents.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this wonderful book in a few hours and couldn't wait to share it with one of my classes. It is both funny and sad at times. A few tears were shed at the adoption "classifieds," but I finished it with a sense of contentment. A great book. After reading the first chapter, one of my students was so happy that I read a book about another Korean. He couldn't stop saying that he was Korean too.
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Format: Paperback
Joseph Calderaro is one mixed-up 14-year-old ever since his teacher asked the class to write about their ancestry. This contemporary book for middle school readers takes a unique look at adoption: Joseph was born to Korean parents and adopted by an Italian-American family. What can he write about? His father urges him to tell about his Italian grandfather, but he isn't exactly Italian. On the other hand, when he meets a woman from Korea who learns that he can't speak Korean, he feels that her hostile look means he's just a "fake Korean."

He asks his mother about his Korean parents, but learns that his adoptive parents were only told the place where he was found. In fact, no one involved in the adoption knows anything about the birth parents.

Now what? Joseph needs to write the essay, but he can't figure out what he can possibly say about his ancestors. He starts reading books on the history of Korea and learns about a Korean hero who ran the marathon at the 1936 Olympics. He had to compete under Japan's flag because Japan had invaded Korea, but even so, he won the gold medal. Joseph is inspired and writes a great essay about him.

And says the Olympic medal winner was his grandfather.

He would have gotten away with it, except his essay wins first place. And the best essay will be entered in a national contest. Even if he doesn't confess to his parents and his teacher, his lie will soon be exposed.

Meanwhile, the books about Korea have made him want to know about his birth parents. One of his friends puts an ad on a Korean adoption website and before long he gets an answer. Can it be he'll soon find out about his Korean parents?
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Format: Paperback
Joseph Calderaro is an "eighth-grade optimist" whose "bag of barbecue chips is always half full." That is until he has a lousy 14th birthday and his teacher assigns a 1,500-word paper called Tracing Your Past: A Heritage Essay. The only trouble is, Joseph is adopted. Fourteen years ago he was left on the steps of a police station in Korea. His adopted parents are Italians living in New Jersey, and while he knows he's a Calderaro, he feels he can't claim the Italian heritage as his own.

Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent follows Joseph as he questions his own identity and struggles to come up with answers about his heritage. Is he a real Korean? Is he Italian? Does it make a difference to him?

I found myself liking Joseph right off the bat. And I loved the assignment he got to write about his heritage. I've done a lot of work tracing my own family's ancestors, so I know that feeling of wanting to identify with the people who came before you. Joseph's desire to know more about where he came from is extra complicated because of his adoption. But I admired the way he treats this issue as just one of many things he's thinking about in life. He is 14 after all, and so he's trying to decide who to ask to the year-end dance. He's also making new friends and trying to figure out how to bring up difficult subjects with his parents.

Through it all Joseph mostly maintains his optimism, even while he gets into and out of trouble. I found myself cheering for him and thinking how refreshing it is to get to know a character who is upbeat most of the time.

Kimchi and Calamari has many things for mother-daughter book clubs to like and talk about. Issues include communicating with your parents, what makes you part of a family, adoption, your family heritage, dating and more.
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