Krista Kim-Bap by Angela Ahn
Published 18 Apr 2018 by Second Story Press
Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Krista and Jason have been best friends since preschool. It never mattered that he was a boy with reddish brown hair and she was “the Korean girl” at school. Now in fifth grade, everyone in their class is preparing their Heritage Month projects. Jason has always loved Krista’s Korean family, and particularly her mom’s cooking, but Krista is conflicted about being her school’s “Korean Ambassador.” She’s also worried about asking her intimidating grandma to teach the class how to cook their traditional kim-bap. Combine that with her new friends pulling her away from Jason, and Krista has a lot to deal with this year!
Let’s talk about Krista Kim-bap.
No, seriously. Let’s talk about it.
This book is such a conversation starter. There are so many good morals within this book that the Middle Grade book world just doesn’t have enough of. Let’s start with the very obvious: the title of the book. Krista Kim-bap follows a titular character called Krista Kim. She’s a Korean-Canadian girl who knows little to nothing about her culture except that they eat Korean food and lots of kimchi.
Krista goes on a journey to find out more about her culture, the intimate story behind the Koreans love for food and rediscovers what it means to love yourself, being confident and breaking the status quo.
I love this book. For starters, this is a diverse book. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see that many books about Korean culture, period. It’s pretty exciting to see the different aspects of their culture, told by a Korean and seeing it through the eyes of a child and how they’re raised by their parents and grandparents. I think there’s a lot of importance for kids to be learning about other’s cultures and traditions; learning how to respect people who are different than us and celebrate their differences. Its completely excellent how Krista loves being Korean and doesn’t necessarily want to change anything about herself.
Middle grade books are targeted mostly to children aged 8 – 12, so some of the topics discussed here may be a little heavy for younger children; so if you are a parent or a teacher, this is your call. You’re gonna have to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t and filter accordingly — but: this book does talk a little bit about plastic surgery.
The discussion about plastic surgery is a short one, but the aftermath of that short discussion creates something we need to talk about. Krista’s grandmother is pretty big on plastic surgery, and admittedly, from what we’ve seen in Korean dramas or read on the gossip news, it seems like a pretty big thing in Korea too. She has a discussion with Krista and her older sister Tori about getting double eyelid surgery when they’re older in Korea, which leads to Krista’s eventual experiment with eyelid tape. This is of course met with disapproval from her mother, who finds it completely okay to have “Korean eyes” and not have the need to look like anyone in the magazines.
Krista Kim-bap is a bit of a fresh breath of air. I do think its an interesting book with a lot room for discussion and maintains its relevance to our current society. Filter this book or not, discuss it or not, but Krista Kim-bap can teach you so many things even as a grown adult.
Because loving yourself, being respectful to other people and walking to the beat of your own drums will never go out of style.