Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim. Grades 4-7. Kokila, March 2020. 320 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.
Yumi Chung's parents have some ideas about what a perfect Korean daughter should be like. Her hair should be permed (not cut in a sleek pixie cut like Yumi wanted to try). She should attend an elite private school like Winston (even if Yumi has no friends at school). And she should cheerfully go to summer school to prepare for the scholarship test since her parents' failing Korean restaurant means that they can no longer afford private school tuition (even though Yumi would much rather spend the summer working on her comedy routine and studying her favorite funny YouTubers and personal idols).
But when Yumi stumbles across a stand-up comedy class for kids being taught by her YouTube idol Jasmine Jasper at the new comedy club in her neighborhood, she can't help but look in to see what it's all about. And when she's mistaken for an Asian girl who didn't show up for the first week of classes, Yumi kind of accidentally becomes "Kay Nakamura" and starts attending the class. She knows her parents would kill her if they found out. And she knows that it's wrong to take Kay's spot when she hasn't paid for the class.
But Yumi also knows that she needs this. She needs this one thing to be hers, to really give comedy a try and see if she's got what it takes. To connect with a group of kids who are interested in the same things she is. Even if that means living a double life.
Can Yumi keep her new stage presence a secret from her parents and her true identity a secret from Jasmine Jasper and her new comedy friends? And when her parents restaurant is really in trouble, can comedy save the day?
This is such a sweet, funny story with tons of kid appeal and a story about standing up for who you are, even if it's not what you're "supposed" to do. Yumi is a really likeable character; I was rooting for her from the start. I think middle grade kids who enjoy performing or comedy will find a lot to relate to in this book. Yumi's not awesome at stand-up right away. It takes her some time and practice to get it right and she works really hard at her art. Even though she's a shy girl, she takes to performing and she doesn't give up when she bombs.
Dorko the Magnificent by Andrea Beaty (Amulet, 2013). Although Robbie Darko is a magician and Yumi Chung is a comedian, both tweens long for life on the stage and work hard to achieve their performance dreams. Both stories are told with a lot of heart and humor and unforgettable characters.
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy (Harper, 2019). Readers fascinated by funny tweens leading double lives may enjoy both of these middle grade novels. Sweet Pea writes a secret advice column while Yumi attends comedy class while her parents think she is studying for summer school.