Children’s author Lyla Lee brings Mindy Kim to life from her own experiences and shares her culture in the process.

Lee’s new chapter book series features Korean-American Mindy Kim. It debuts this month with “Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business” and “Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade.”

Mindy is a spirited 7½-year-old who wants a puppy, as well as friends in her new school. The experience of being the new student is one that Lee knows well. She also understands the challenges that come with being Asian in a predominately white school.  

 “In third grade, I moved from California to Florida,” Lee said. “I was the new kid and didn’t have any friends. I got bullied for being Asian.”

Just like the title character, Lee and a friend also started a seaweed business. Unlike Mindy, Lee’s was a bit more modest in scope – and she didn’t get sent to the principal’s office. 

Lee and her classmates soon found common ground. 

“We all liked Harry Potter and cartoons,” Lee said. “At the end, it was a fun experience to live in that area.”

Lee’s sweet storytelling style is sure to engage young readers and their parents and help families jumpstart conversations about love, friendship and acceptance in an endearing way. The series also provides much needed Asian-American representation in early elementary chapter books. Lee’s message: “Even if you’re the new kid, it’s OK.”

“The main theme I want to get across is how important open-mindedness is – and the power of friendship,” she said. “Mindy and me, we both found friends where we didn’t think we would.”

Currently, four titles are planned in the Mindy Kim series. The first two launch on Jan. 14, in conjunction with Korean-American Day (Jan. 13) and Lunar New Year (Jan. 25). Both books are published by Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin imprint and are recommend for ages 6 – 9. Learn more about Lee at

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