Summary: Krista Kim-Bap
Krista Kim-Bap is one of those backlist middle-grade books that I’ve had on my TBR for ages now. Krista is an almost-12-year-old living in Vancouver, Canada. Her best friend since kindergarten is a redheaded boy named Jason. Jason enjoys Korean food, even kimchi, which has a strong smell. Although both of her parents are Korean, Krista’s mom does not cook a lot of Korean food. Her paternal grandmother though, always makes and brings them Korean food. Sadly, however, it seems that Grandma prefers Krista’s teen sister Tori to her. Tori is interested in fashion and makeup, and isn’t the biggest fan of Korean food. Krista on the other hand, prefers her worn jeans and sneakers, which Grandma does not like.
After wearing a modernized hanbok Tori makes for her to a party with the popular girls in her school, the girls and their leader Madison suddenly want to be friends with Krista. Krista worries about how this affects her friendship with Jason, with whom she would typically spend most of her time. All the while, Krista is working hard to come up with a project for their class Heritage Month project. She’s nervous about being asked too many questions about Korean culture aka being the “Korean Ambassador.” Can Krista handle all the pressure while keeping her friendship with Jason intact?
I really liked this book. It’s short, and Krista is a likable character. She and Jason have a sweet friendship and a good understanding of each other. My heart went out to Krista as she agonizes about being liked by Grandma as much as Tori is. Krista also has to deal with body image and identity issues and she and Tori experiment with eye tape and Krista experiments with a fancier style of dress. Their grandma even promises to take both girls to Korea for monolid surgery. I also enjoyed the family scenes with her parents and grandmother.
Food is at the heart of this novel, as Krista and her grandmother work together on her class project. Krista learns a lot about her culture and how to make kim-bap (which Grandma insists is not the same as sushi — take note). The relationship between Krista and her grandmother also blossoms over time, and I did find Grandma to be more endearing as I got to know her better. Krista learns how to balance multiple friendships, and I liked that none of the other girls are stereotyped as mean girls. Both Krista and Jason learn that they can be friends with other people and each other as well.
Overall: Krista Kim-Bap
Krista Kim-Bap is an endearing middle-grade book with a strong resemblance to The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. It was interesting to read a Canadian middle-grade book with cultural diversity. This book features a sweet sister relationship, a loving Korean grandma, healthy school friendships, and lots of food! If you’re looking for a feel-good middle-grade book with a dash of humor, you will absolutely enjoy this one. I look forward to Ahn’s forthcoming title, Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field.
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Have you read this book or any other wonderful Canadian middle-grade fiction? I’d love more recommendations!