While shopping for our school library at the Scholastic warehouse nearby, we picked up this little gem of a book. “Kimchi and Calamari” centers on 14-year-old Joseph Calderaro, a Korean boy adopted in infancy into a NJ Italian family. Joseph struggles with his identity and his unknown past when his English teacher assigns his class to write about their family’s past. Joseph creates a fictional story based on an Olympic athlete, which gets him into hot water when his essay is selected as a winner for a local contest. He also secretly posts on a Korean adoptee website in an effort to track down his birth mother.
This was such a charming book to read. I couldn’t help but like Joseph right from the onset as he endured the daily ups and downs of your typical 8th grader: friends, girls, little sisters, and family matters. Joseph’s quest to better understand him past and thus himself is a touching one, and one I would think many adopted individuals would relate to. Kent does a good job in making Joseph believable and likable, and I appreciate that while the story has a happy and positive ending, she does not tie up all the loose ends in a neat package with a bow on top!
This would make a good summer read for 5th through 7th graders, in my opinion, especially if you are looking for a male protagonist and for something in the realistic fiction genre.