Krista Kim-Bap

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2018

Member Reviews

Krista deals with typical middle-grade issues such as how to remain friends with a boy, how to relate to the popular girls (who refreshingly aren't bullies), and how to deal with her fashion-conscious older sister .  Added to this are the unique challenges of blending her Canadian and Korean heritages and figuring out how to relate to her grandmother whose expectations she never seems to meet.  Occasionally the lessons Ahn is trying to teach about communication and friendship seem a bit obvious, but Krista and her best friend Jason are delightful characters who will appeal to 3rd-5th grade readers.
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This was a super cute children's book. I would have loved to read this type of story in elementary school; it would have helped me feel less lonely at times, and better able to articulate how I struggled with race growing up in the American South.
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This book was cute and the characters felt real to me.  The problems faced by the MC were not over the top or overly traumatic, but they were legitimate and something that I would think most children go through at one time or another.  

One HUGE warning with this book.  It will make you SO HUNGRY!!!  Lol, the food described in this book sounded AMAZING and I wanted ALL of it.  The MC is Korean-Canadian and one of the plot points is that she has to do a report on the countries of her ancestry (all the children in her class do) and how it is expressed in her.  She chooses Korean food, since that is what she eats at home and what she feels ties her to the land of her family.  So Korean food is described with a lot of mouth-watering detail.  (I'm salivating just thinking about it.)

This is a 3.5 star book, but with the food descriptions, I'm boosting it to a 4.  

My thanks to NetGalley and Second Story Press for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.
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This was a good book about growing up, navigating the social difficulties of being a tween, and appreciating your cultural heritage. Krista is a young Korean-Canadian who doesn't relate at all to her Korean heritage except for her love of the food. Her nuclear family is very modern, but her grandmother is still very traditional - she cooks all of the traditional foods, expects girls to always look their best, and to be very feminine. Krista has never cared for fashion, that's her older sister's department. She prefers hanging out with her best friend Jason. But when she is given an assignment to explore her heritage, the only thing she can come up with requires her to spend a great deal of time with her grandmother. She even dresses up for a party that she would never have gone to before and the popular girls start talking to her because of a dress her sister made. As these girls try to make Krista more like them, her friendship with Jason suffers. Krista has to figure out who she is and what is important to her, not to everyone else.

There are a lot of good lessons in the book and will probably appeal to younger middle-grade readers, but the writing didn't make the story move as well as it should have. I liked the fact that Krista was Korean as we don't see enough of that in literature, it just didn't resonate much with me.
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Contemporary Fiction
Librarians and writers often share the same circles, but it might surprise you to learn how many writers ARE librarians. Lewis Carroll, Sarah Ellis, Kit Pearson, Bill Richardson, Beverly Cleary, to name just a few. And now Angela Ahn joins this fine group. As she and I went to library school together at UBC, I was both delighted and secretly a bit apprehensive when her publisher, Second Story Press, agreed to provide me with a digital copy for review. What if I don’t like it? But I’m happy to report this is a truly enjoyable story that celebrates culture, friendship, and family. Krista Kim is almost 12 years old and lives with her Korean-Canadian mum, dad, and sister Tori in Vancouver. Her very best friend is a boy named Jason; they’ve been thick as thieves since the first day of preschool together. They eat lunch together, choose each other as partners in class, and have a standing date every Wednesday after school at Krista’s house where Jason dives into the fridge, hoping for leftover kimchi, to the annoyance of Krista’s traditional Grandma. When their teacher assigns the class a project on their heritage, it’s Jason, in fact, who suggests Korean food as a theme for Krista. Krista isn’t sure how she feels about her Korean-ness. Then she attends a classmate’s fancy party wearing a hanbok that Tori has altered for her, and it’s the envy of every girl there. Suddenly Krista is invited to spend lunch and recess with the girls, she starts experimenting with clothes and even makeup, and she doesn’t have as much time for Jason. But surely he understands, right? Ahn has written a lively and engaging story of a tween girl struggling to figure who she is and who her friends are, while dealing with shifting boundaries as relationships develop and change. She gives Krista a solid family foundation from which to understand and navigate the push and pull between her heritage and her Canadianness, an authentic reality that will resonate with young readers from all cultures who sometimes find themselves as “others.” The book pulls you right into Krista’s world – I could easily visualize her as a scrawny and energetic kid clad in worn sneakers and faded jeans, struggling to do what’s right even as she tries to figure out just what right is. Fun, funny, and occasionally touching. I look forward to more from my friend who is a teacher, mother, librarian, and now author. My thanks to Second Story Press for the digital reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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Krista Kim-Bap was a great #ownvoices book that is necessary to have on library and classroom shelves as a window/mirror book for our learners. This book brought the Korean heritage to the forefront in a real, relatable way.
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Krista has to do a presentation about her family's origins in class.  Aaargh! She'll have to be the Korea's ambassador again. The project helps her connect to her grandmother, who she is sure doesn't like her.  Meanwhile she's discovering that it's okay to make new friends, but not okay to hurt her old friends in the process.    This fun book will make you want to look up kimbap and give it a try.  Plus, tell the people you care about how you really feel.
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A sort of shallow exploration of the topic. On the one hand, we get a fair amount of Korean culture, particularly food and fashion and the influence of western culture on those elements. NOt a super deep dive but it's more than "we eat 'weird' food". That's intriguing of course, especially the various pressures based on generation. I was more interested, actually, on the general social pressures part. WE see Krista's difficulty understanding her peers, the way fashion plays into that. When she conforms she's more accepted. And even though she doesn't like or understand it she likes being accepted. Its a struggle for a lot of kids that age.
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I came across this book on Twitter, where it was recommended by a friend who is a public librarian and an authority on middle grade books. Since a review copy was available on NetGalley, I logged my request and got the free eARC on my Kindle. Needless to say (but am still saying it!) this does not impact my review of the book. 

Krista Kim-Bap is a slice of the life of twelve-year old Krista Kim who is a Korean-Canadian living in Vancouver. She has never been to Korea, cannot speak or read Korean and has little information about Korean history or culture. The one Korean thing she truly loves is Korean food. Sharing her love for bulgogi and kimchi is her best friend since preschool, Jason. Jason is Scottish Canadian, but adores the bold, punchy flavours of Korean Food. Krista and Jason are inseparable and have perfect understanding between them, without any sort of romantic feelings. 

On the other hand, Krista has zero understanding with her elder sister Tori. Tori is in high school, tries to underplay her Korean-ness as much as possible, has a keen sense of fashion and always looks beautifully put-together with perfect hair, trendy clothes and the poise to match. Krista lives in jeans, tshirts and sneakers, her hair is always twisted up in a ponytail and she thinks that she and Tori just don't have anything in common to connect over.

The story begins with their class teacher Mrs. June announcing a new project for Heritage Month- they each have to make a presentation and submit a report about their heritage. Krista is lost, and has no idea how to talk to her classmates about what it feels to be Korean when she knows next to nothing about Korea and does not feel as Korean as much as she feels Canadian. But Jason comes to the rescue and suggests that she base her project on Korean food, since it is something she feels strongly about. 

Thus begins the most tumultuous period of Krista's hitherto uneventful life. She approaches her stern grandmother for help with her project. Grandma Kim had emigrated to Canada from Korea years ago, and still holds the views and opinions she had had as a young woman in Korea. She believes in girls dressing up, wearing make up and looking pretty- everything that Krista hates. Her compliments to Krista are all backhanded and she is mistrustful of her friendship with Jason. But she is very helpful (in her brusque way) and starts teaching Krista to make Korean food. She takes her and Tori to a Korean salon to get their hair and makeup done. Tori, coming to know of Krista's project, makes her a modern version of the traditional Korean dress hanbok that she can wear for her presentation. As Krista explores becoming more 'girly', all the popular girls in her class 'discover' her and invite her to join their clique. Suddenly it is as if there are too many changes happening in Krista's life and as she drifts apart from Jason, she feels like she is lost as she tries to find herself. The rest of the book is about how she finds her way to her real self, with help from her grandmother and mother.

I liked the book because it gave me a window into Korean food and culture. I had no idea that kim-bap was the Korean version of sushi (though never say that to a Korean!) or that ssangapul tape or ssangapul surgery (to make the eyes look bigger) was a part of Korean beauty culture and almost a rite of passage there. I found myself looking up things online while reading the book which I think is the best thing a book can do- make the reader more curious and hence more informed.

I also liked the message in the book- be true to yourself. The talking-to Krista's mom gives to her and Tori about being comfortable in their own skins is one of the best advice I have seen being given to tweens and teens who are exploring their own identities- it is balanced and sensible, without any talking down. The advice Grandmother Kim gives Jason (and Krista) about being vocal about your feelings rather than expecting your loved ones to simply understand you is also important.

What I didn't like is the style of narration- it reads in a montone, like a boring, ceaseless ticking of words like the seconds hand of a clock. Writing should be a mix of long sentences and short, of vivid exclamations and patient explanations, of evocative descriptions and interesting conversation. It should not be a rhythmic endless barrage of words with little texture and emotion to bring it alive. The books suffers from this. Another the thing that irked me is that some of the dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. In several places, people address each other by name even while its just the two of them talking, which never happens in real life. For example:

“Tori, you did this?” my mom was amazed. She looked pleased. “Yes, I did. Not bad, huh?” 
“Tori, it looks amazing! I was wondering what you were doing last night. What’s it for?” 
”I’m going to tell you something else, Krista, because, I know I shouldn’t be, but I am totally shocked at how naïve you are."
When I finally calmed down, I asked, half afraid, “Jason, are we good?”
"Krista, we’re good,” he said.

But according to me, these flaws in writing are more the editor's responsibility than the author's. 

In conclusion, the book has a nice message and a great intro to Korean culture. A better, more thorough edit would have made all the difference.

Suitable for kids aged 10-12.
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Krista Kim’s life is about to be shaken up by a family heritage project, popular girl Madison’s birthday party, and the Celebration of Dance her teacher has signed the class up to participate in. For the heritage project her best friend Jason suggests she focus on Korean food because he loves eating the stuff at her house. The trouble is her mom, though of Korean descent, has lived in Canada all her life and doesn’t really know how to cook Korean so Krista’d have to ask her grandmother for help. Her grandmother is a very strict, traditional Korean grandma, and seems to love Krista’s older, more fashionable sister Tori and barely tolerates her. Madison’s birthday party unexpectedly finds Krista questioning her fashion taste and hanging out with the popular girls a little more, which means hanging out with Jason less. And then the Celebration of Dance is pretty much a nightmare because dance is not something that comes naturally to Krista. Through it all, Krista will learn more about herself, her family, and what makes a true friend.

This book made me hungry. I lived in Korea for a year, and there are lots of Korean students at my current school too, so I recognize many of the foods Krista talks about and makes as she prepares for her project. And I didn’t have any kimbap in reach! It was agonizing. So to read this right, make or go get some kimbap to munch on between chapters. Or if you’ve never had Korean go to a Korean restaurant, that’s a must while reading this so you can taste what you’re reading about. Besides the yummy Korean food being talked about, this is a middle grade book about a tween girl figuring out who she is in a world that tells her all sorts of things she should be. I loved Krista’s mom’s talk to her girls about accepting themselves, and not trying to look like fake magazine pictures. Krista learns to have better balance in her life eventually. She learns a lot of great lessons about friends, understanding family, and self-acceptance. And I felt like it was realistically handled too, because Krista doesn’t go back to being 100% the same as she was before. She keeps a few of the changes she’s made, but she also realizes some of them just aren’t her or they weren’t good decisions. It’s a good model for kids who are going to face changes whether they want to or not. Change isn’t all bad. So overall, it is a fun middle grade realistic read about a Korean-Canadian tween. Hand this to readers looking for someone of Korean descent as a main character, readers who gobble up contemporary fiction like they live on it, and kids who may need a wake up call to be their real selves and not be fake in the roller coaster years of upper elementary and middle school.

Notes on content: No language issues, though there are 3 words that in some cultures are borderline words. No sexual content. No violence.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC of this book. All opinions are my own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and will be purchasing it for my library.

Krista is in fifth grade, and has to do a project for Heritage Month at school. She's not excited about the project, because there aren't many Korean-Canadian kids at her school and she doesn't want to draw attention to herself. She finally decides to focus on Korean food, something which she loves to eat, and a passion she's also shares with her best friend, Jason. Krista has a rocky relationship with her grandmother, but she enlists her help with the project, as she is an excellent cook. Krista's relationship with Jason begins to change, as does the one with her grandmother, and Krista realizes that figuring out who you really are can be very complicated.

Food plays a central part of this book, and I love the way it has the power to bring people together. I especially loved to watch as Krista's grandmother changed in how she interacted with both Krista, and Jason. There are excellent descriptions about the dishes that they eat, and I appreciated learning something about Korean cuisine. 

Since Canada is such a multicultural country, I love to see more books that reflect the lives of children who come from a variety of backgrounds, and the Korean-Canadian storyline is not one I've seen before in Canadian middle grade literature. I look forward to sharing this book with my young patrons.
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This was a quick read that transported me back to my days as a tween. The story deals with the awkwardness and complexity of changing social circles at school as well as connecting with one's family and heritage across generational divides. I enjoyed the balance between the friendship and family arcs and the appreciated the explicit discussion of narrow beauty standards in Korea (which are similar to in Taiwan). Krista reminded me of myself at the same age–unfashionable, not very popular, and breaking from the typical gendered segregation among peers by having a best friend who was a boy.
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There are many parts of this book I appreciated. The focus on non-traditional characters, a subject matter that kids would relate to (family traditions/family expectations) The reason why I would struggle recommending this book is I don't know what age level to recommend it to. The story idea was sophisticated but the writing level seemed more for early independent readers. A great concept, but wouldn't know the age to recommend the book to.
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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.

(review to go live on blog @ 28 Feb 2018)
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Krista navigates the choppy waters of fifth grade in Krista Kim-Bap, examining friendship, identity, and family in Vancouver, Canada. Krista’s long-standing friendship with Jason is tested when she begins to explore friendships with the other girls in class, and an impending Heritage Month school project forces her to think about the ways her family expresses their Korean identity. Since Krista’s teen sister downplays her ethnicity at every turn and her mother refuses to cook Korean food to avoid criticism from Krista’s grandmother, what’s a girl to do? Krista goes on a culinary journey with her grandmother, allows her sister to restyle a hanbok dress for an important party, and clashes with her mother over fashion tape that allows her to achieve a Western-style double eyelid look. Readers will identify with the ebb and flow of drama in Krista’s life, and will find the situations to be highly relatable to their own late elementary school experiences. Krista triumphs over challenges in her own way, with help from her supportive extended family who alternately encourage her and warn her of the pitfalls that await as she takes her first tentative steps into the adolescent experience. Ahn’s debut novel will resonate with tweens who are trying new things and looking for ways to stay true to themselves.
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Though the book was exactly what the summary said it would be, I was surprised by this book. Instead of it being a simple/cheesy story about two childhood friends growing apart, it's more about a girl trying to rectify her Canadian and Korean identies as well as growing up and finding her "true self".  Krista and her sister were portrayed to have a very relatable sibling relationship. Krista had sort of a good role model, but at the same time, Toni just wanted her own life with her own interests. Krista and her grandmother had one of the more interesting relationships in the story.  It was portrayed very well.

A great early middle grade story.
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Krista Kim-Bap begins with a description of grandma’s kimchi, and throughout the story, Krista learns more about not only food, but also friendship. Her family members are her biggest teachers: her grandma helps her to cook Korean food a school project for heritage month, her sister Tori sews her a fashionable Korean dress, and they both help her to navigate the difficulties of changing friendships.
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If you are looking for books representing modern Korean families this is a good option.  It's a classic friendship story updated to deal with issues of culture as well as changes in generational thinking, body image, and school politics.  There are some weak points, like a repeated sentiment of "I'm just a kid" at the beginning that just sounded like a jarring adult view mid narrative and some characters could do with more developing, but it is still a solid choice that talks about issues that are not seen as often in middle grade books.
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Fifth grade has changes in store for Krista. She sees a new side of herself and her sister Tori, when Tori makes a gorgeous dress for a party Krista reluctantly goes to. Suddenly Krista is hanging out with all of the popular girls instead of with her bestie since preschool, Jason. Krista is also learning more about her Korean heritage while making traditional Korean foods with her intimidating grandmother. Some changes are good, others not so much. Can Krista find her place and still be happy?
Great book about growing up, making and keeping friends, and about culture and family. I definitely recommend having this book in classrooms and libraries!
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I really loved this story. Krista is eleven and I felt like the reading difficulty was appropriate for that 10+ age range, while at the same time introducing themes of culture, family, friendship, growing up, and self discovery. I also am slightly obsessed with Korean food, so I loved all the great descriptions of Korean food and culture in this book. This book is definitely accessible for a young audience, but at the same time I really enjoyed reading it at age 32 as well. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more by Angela Ahn.
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