Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Stand Up, Yumi Chung and Mañanaland

Kim, Jessica. Stand Up, Yumi Chung
March 17th 2020 by Kokila
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Yumi lives in Los Angeles with her mother and father, who run a struggling Korean barbecue restaurant. Her older sister, Yuri, is very academically gifted, and attending medical school across town. Yumi is enrolled in a summer hagwon (cram school) run by Ms. Pak so she can hopefully do well on a test and get a scholarship to the school she attends, Winston Prep. On her way to the library for her required three hours of studying one day, Yumi happens upon a theater where her comedic idol. She is mistaken for another attendee, Kay, and doesn't correct anyone when they start to call her that. While she tries to make things right (her sister even gives her money for the registration fee), she is enjoying the comedy lessons and doesn't tell anyone about her subterfuge, knowing that her parents are determined that she go to medical school like her older sister. In the meantime, the restaurant is not doing well. The father comes up with the idea to add karaoke and spends some money on renovating the run down facility, but the grand reopening doesn't do well. After her parents find out about her comedic excursion, Yumi and her friends come up with an idea to save the restaurant. Will comedy be the way to save her family after all?
N.B. For some reason, this E ARC kept crashing my E reader, so I don't have all the character names.
Strengths: Over the years, I have had a number of students whose parents either run or work at ethnic restaurants, so this was a fascinating glimpse into that world. Yumi doesn't really like working at the restaurant or having kids at her school call her Yu-meat, but she loves her family and has a strong sentimental attachment to the business. She doesn't like her school, but understands why her parents want her to have the best education possible so that she can have a better life. Yumi is a very sympathetic character, and her struggles with her parents will ring true with many middle grade readers. It's also  nice to see that she has her own interest in stand up comedy and has a plan to pursue it. The identity mix-up is fun, and something I have only ever seen in Being Sloane Jacobs.
Weaknesses: This was a tiny bit on the long side; like many books, it could have been tightened up a bit in the middle.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and see this being popular with a wide variety of students.

My recurring regret is that so many middle grade novels involve children pursuing career ideas because it is their "passion", even if there are not many jobs available. I wish we would see more books about children wanting to go into tech or science fields and fewer going into writing and performing arts! (Remember, Latin didn't end well for me, and both of my daughters are in financial careers and love what they do, so this is a very personal objection!)

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Mañanaland 
March 3rd 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Maximiliano Córdoba lives with his father and Buelo, since his mother left when he was young. His father is a stone mason who has been given permission to take stones from some ruins and construct bridges near the small village where they live. The father had also been a big soccer star, and Max wants desperately to go to a soccer camp run by the coach of the team he wishes to join, but his father is loathe to let him, especially since the coach is requiring a birth certificate. Buelo tells Max a little about his mother, and also about the family's role as Guardians for the Hidden Ones. (People who help abused women get out of the country.) La Reina Gigante, where the father is getting some of the stones for building, has a tower that is still standing, and Max finds inscriptions carved on the walls that talk about people going to Mañanaland, and he thinks that is where his mother is. When his father goes to the city to try to obtain a birth certificate for him, Father Romero comes to his house with a young girl, Isadora, who needs to be moved so she can join her sister Rosalina. Their parents are dead, and they were given to a wealthy man to help clean his house, but he wanted to marry the older sister, who was only 14, so the Guardians became involved. Rosalina has already been moved, but since his father and grandfather are not around, Max decides to go with Isadora. The voyage is very dangerous, but Max hopes it will lead him to his mother. He manages to get Isadora to safety and learns a lot about the Guardians, the Hidden Ones, and his mother, and he and his father have a new appreciation for each other when they both return home.
Strengths: It's good to see a book dealing with immigration and the problems that people, especially women, face with violence in other countries. Max is an appealing character who is more interested in soccer and his own problems that those on a wider scope, and his family's reluctance to share their dangerous past with him is realistic. The depiction of the journey with Isadora is especially riveting.
Weaknesses: As important as this story is, the way it is told is confusing. I was never completely sure where it took place, and referring to the Guardians and Hidden Ones made this seem almost like a fantasy book, especially with La Reina Gigante and the stories that the grandfather tells. Max seems  naive (in a Boy in the Striped Pajamas kind of way), which also didn't help my understanding. If readers don't have any background information on the problems in Latin American countries, this book might be more confusing than helpful.
What I really think: I didn't buy this author's Echo, and I don't think I'll buy this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment