English & Korean
Early Chapter Book Readers
Single Parent Family
Lyla Lee & Dung Ho
I LOVE this series! Mindy is a great protagonist and narrator, and Lyla Lee’s writing is always fresh and engaging. Mindy Kim and the Trip to Korea came out this spring, and I really enjoyed it. Mindy Kim and the Big Pizza Challenge is out on September 14th, but I wanted to feature both of them today in preparation for all of the back-to-school bookshelf planning that’s going on right now!
I’ll get to details about the individual books down below, but first I wanted to write a bit about what I like so much about this series as a whole. It addresses losing a parent early in life, and the healing process. Mindy misses her mother, but is happy for her dad that he’s found a partner. The reflection that readers in the same position will receive from this series cannot be understated, as well as the pride Mindy has in her Korean-American heritage.
Mindy and her dad along with his girlfriend Julie are going on vacation, you guessed it, to Korea! Mindy has never been there before, but a significant chunk of her family still lives there. An aspect of the story I thought was handled beautifully was when Mindy called her best friend at home, feeling a little bummed that she’s not fluent in Korean. Her BFF Sally agrees that it can be a little confusing when a person doesn’t know a language, but says that people have to get used to new things and that Mindy will still have a fantastic trip. I appreciated how Lee modeled this type of friendship; Sally validated and encouraged Mindy to keep working on her Korean and assured Mindy that she would have a fantastic vacation.
Julie is also struggling to feel accepted by the family, and Mindy wants to help her. Mindy is a caring narrator, and insists on helping Julie. They’re both learning Korean, and have an independent spirit. Overall, this is a fantastic story on both an SEL level and one that teaches the basics of Korean culture, with great descriptions of the different places the Mindy gets to visit on her vacation.
In this next book, the Big Pizza Challenge, there is a trivia competition coming up at school with a big prize: free pizza! Mindy has a few reasons for wanting to win so much. First, free pizza (obviously), but as fulfilling as pizza is there are a couple more emotional reasons. Mindy wants validation that her single parent family, and as a first generation American, that she and her dad can be worthy competition.
During all of this as well, Mindy finds out that her dad is thinking about proposing to Julie. There are really beautiful and important plot points about the emotional complexity of loving Julie and continuing to grieve her mother. Lyla Lee writes Mindy with great skill and emotional maturity. Mindy articulates herself well, and this models fabulous social-emotional learning for the reader.
These were both sent by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are my own!
Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.
Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. She’s focused on children books, game design, character design.