Multicultural Chapter Book for Kids with Adoption Themes
14-year-old Joseph Caldararo has a loving family and is a well-adjusted popular kid at school. But when his social studies teacher assigns a paper on Your Cultural heritage, his world gets turned upside down. He knows he’s adopted from Korea when he was just an infant and it’s never really bothered him before, but now it does. It doesn’t help that the new dry cleaners are taken over by a Korean family who are off-out by his adoption. And it makes his parents upset when he wants to learn more about his own cultural heritage. His best friend assists him in conducting an internet search to try to trace his parents but that’s a long shot at best! But what to write for this paper? His confusion about who he is leads him down a path of deceit and now everything is a mess. On top of this, he’s trying to get a date for the school dance. Whoever said that middle school is tough is right! [chapter book, ages 9-12]
Rose Kent writes this book with a clear eye and a loving heart much like the hero in her story. She is an expert on this topic of overseas adoption from Asia as she herself has four children of Korean descent, two of which are adopted. This is a great read for anyone who is trying to figure out who they are, particularly for those who are adopted from overseas.
An excerpt from an Interview with Rose Kent
You are a mother of two biological teenagers who are part Korean and two children adopted from Korea, and more recently, two stepchildren. How much of your real family life and issues influenced Joseph’s story?
I have a wacky-absolutely-wonderful family and our experiences certainly help me give dimension to characters. With our vast age range, spanning from eight to twenty, we’re dealing with everything from Show-and-Tell anxiety to dating jitters and college admission planning (and a lot of laundry too, by the way!). But it’s mostly the feelings I tap into. You can’t turn your family into characters. They wouldn’t be happy campers, and it wouldn’t work. Readers are too smart for that.
How much research did you have to do for this story? Were there any surprises along the way?
Fiction has to ring as true as nonfiction, so research matters plenty. KIMCHI & CALAMARI has many references to both Korean and Italian customs and traditions, and I wanted to get this right. I grew up on Long Island, with many close-knit Italian families, so I had some knowledge of (and genuine respect for) Italian culture. And of course having adopted Korean children motivated me to learn about their culture. I read whatever I could get my hands on. I especially enjoyed a presentation given by Sal Primeggia, a sociology professor at Adelphi University who shared fascinating details about the origins of Italian superstitions. That’s where I learned about the curse of the malocchio, or the Italian evil eye, which I have some fun with in the book.
And I did a great deal of listening. A dear friend, Sandy Dagliolo, grew up in a small village outside of Venice. I learned so much about Italian ways from listening to Sandy’s recollections. I also talked with Jae Kim, a bright young Korean lady who was a student at Yale University at the time. Jae broadened my horizon by sharing her family’s story and helping me understand Korea’s history, especially during the Japanese occupation.
Yes, you bet there were surprises! The subplot about Joseph’s father changing careers was not planned — or how Joseph would draw a connection between this and his own search for identity. And the fact that Olympic runner Sohn Kee Chung appeared in Joseph’s dreams wasn’t in the original blueprint, so to speak.
I call this aspect of writing A Series of Small Serendipities. It makes me think of Forrest Gump’s mama saying that life is like a box of chocolates, and you don’t always know what you’re going to get. The same goes for writing, and it’s exciting when the good stuff pops up unexpectedly. But then, is it really a surprise? The writer creates a character, paints a setting, and hacks out a plot path, and so maybe these aren’t surprises but byproducts of all that effort.