April 02, 2018

Krista Kim-Bap

Written by Angela Ahn
Second Story Press
176 pp.
Ages 9-13
April 2018

Everyone wants to fit in.  They want to be accepted by their peers and appreciated by their family.  And eleven-year-old Krista Kim wants the same.  Fortunately she has a best friend, Jason, who is a close as a brother.  In fact, he’s even better since he appreciates her Korean heritage, especially all the delicious foods, more than Krista’s teen sister Tori who strives not to be seen as Korean.  Sadly Krista’s very Korean grandmother adores Tori and doesn’t seem to appreciate Krista’s tomboyish ways or her friendship with Jason.

But everything starts to change after a classmate, Madison, invites Krista to her “Red Carpet” birthday party and Grandma takes Krista to a salon for hair, makeup and eye taping (to create the impression of a double lid) and Tori recreates a Korean hanbok for Krista to wear to the event.  Soon Krista is eating lunch with Madison and the more popular girls, and Jason, her dear friend who was like a part of the family, is relegated to her background.

Meanwhile, Krista and her classmates are working on family heritage projects and Krista decides to focus on the foods with which she is familiar.  But it’s her Grandma who makes the kimchi and kimbap and the authentic Korean dishes that she loves.  So, Krista asks her Grandma to teach her how to cook.
This food that all Koreans eat is in our hearts.” (pg. 124)
As Krista learns more about her heritage, particularly through its cuisine, she’s actually learning more about her grandmother, what it means to be Korean for all her family, and what it means to be a friend. 

Angela Ahn takes us into the heart of a second- and third-generation Korean family in Vancouver and gives readers a taste of a culture with which many of us are not familiar.  Kids growing up in families such as Krista’s will undoubtedly recognize the customs and traditions, the social relationships, and those distinctions that make being Korean different than other cultural heritages.  By making Krista’s heritage the background for her maturing acceptance of who she is and what friends she wants in her life, Angela Ahn has rolled this middle-grade novel into a special bundle of substance and flavour, not unlike the kimbap she learns to prepare with her grandmother.

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