I'm OK
I'm OK
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Annotation: Ok, a Korean American boy, tries a get rich quick scheme of starting a hair braiding business and winning the school talent competition to hide the fact that he is struggling with the loss of his father and the financial hardships he and his mother must now bear.
Catalog Number: #168335
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Atheneum
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 279 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-534-41929-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-534-41929-2
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017046909
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Ok's mother is doing everything in her power to live the American dream: she works three day jobs, reuses aluminum foil and plastic bags, makes gelatin from acorns, forages for edible weeds, and collects rainwater. All so that Ok will have a bright future after his father passes away. Bit by his mother's entrepreneurial bug, Ok starts a hair-braiding business at school. Neither the administration nor the school bully, Asa Banks, is supportive of his new venture. To complicate matters, the deacon at Ok's church is pursuing his recently widowed mother. Not shying away from the hardships of being the child of immigrants, Ok's wry, self-deprecating outlook gives levity to his (at times) bleak situation. It all adds up to a poignant look at navigating changes in family dynamics and welcoming unexpected friendships. This is an important novel that can serve as either a window or a mirror for middle-grade readers, making it ripe for wide appeal.
Kirkus Reviews
When Korean-American Ok Lee loses his father in a construction accident, he and his mom must fend for themselves financially while quietly grieving.Middle schooler Ok watches as his mother takes on multiple jobs with long hours trying to make ends meet. Determined to help, he sets his sights on his school's talent show. The winner takes home $100 in cash, enough to pay the utilities before they get cut off. His search to find a bankable talent is complicated by unwanted attention from bully Asa, who's African-American, and blackmail at the hands of a strange classmate named Mickey, who's white. To make matters worse, his mother starts dating Deacon Koh, "the lonely widower" of the First Korean Full Gospel Church, who seems to have dubious motives and "tries too hard." Narrator Ok navigates this full plot with quirky humor that borders on dark at times. His feelings and actions dealing with his grief are authentic. Most of the characters take a surprising turn, in one way or another helping Ok despite initial, somewhat stereotypical introductions and abundant teasing with racial jokes. Although most of the characters go through a transformation, Ok's father in comparison is not as fleshed-out, and Asa's African-American Vernacular English occasionally feels repetitive and forced.A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart. (Fiction. 10-12)
Publishers Weekly
In the wake of his father-s unexpected death, sixth-grade Korean immigrant Ok Lee (-No one at school says my name right... Say -pork.- Drop the p sound. Now drop the r sound-) is determined to earn money to help his mom, who works three jobs, and -keep alive father-s plan for success in the USA.- Unfortunately, Ok-s money-making schemes-braiding his classmates- hair, tutoring the most popular kid in class, and learning how to roller skate to win the school talent contest prize-prove less profitable than he had hoped, and in addition, he is often bullied over his name, his appearance, and his traditional Korean food. As Ok and his mother are forced to move into a smaller apartment, Ok feels like he-s failing, and his desperation leads him to lie, steal, blackmail, and betray newfound friends. Debut author Kim, also a Korean immigrant, tells a moving story of family, culture, and growing up, through the eyes of a boy who struggles to fulfill his father-s American dream and maintain his own sense of pride. Ok-s anger and frustration about his father-s death and his mother-s burgeoning relationship with a deacon from their church ring particularly true, as do his ethical and emotional growth. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 57 When Ok's beloved father dies in a construction accident, his mother works several jobs but can't make ends meet. Determined to help pay their bills, Ok writes a business plan for a braiding business. He doesn't make much at first, but he gets the attention of lots of girls, including the retro-fashion obsessed Mickey McDonald. Ok thinks things are under control until the suspiciously nice Deacon Kohl from the First Korean Full Gospel Church begins courting his mom. Ok becomes convinced that no one needs him anymore and he hatches a plan to run away. Ultimately, Ok learns he's not alone, friendless, or unwanted. Things might not go the way he wants them to, but he's going to be fine. Ok's hilarious observations shine in this realistic fiction title about conformity, individuality, and loving people for who they are, not who you want them to be. The Korean American characters stand out as the most nuanced and compelling throughout. The culturally authentic details Ok shares in his first-person narration bring his relationship with his parents into sharp focus. Unfortunately, Ok's friends Mickey and Asa speak in pronounced dialects, perhaps to indicate their belonging to uneducated families. Consequently, their dialogue seems exaggerated and their character development suffers. Although the plot has a few logistical holes and the character development is uneven, Ok's sincerity will hook many young readers. VERDICT The compelling, funny protagonist makes this a solid general purchase for school and public libraries. Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
ALA Booklist (9/1/18)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal (9/1/18)
Word Count: 55,293
Reading Level: 4.4
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.4 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 198095 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.2 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q75861
Lexile: 670L
Guided Reading Level: Y
I'm Ok


The woman's face is so close to mine that I can tell her eyebrows aren't real. Doodling in some eyes, fins, and tails would turn the pair into two fish facing off. Her eyes are red from crying. Her cheeks are streaked with gray from mascara that made a run for it. She looks down at me. I sink into my corner seat. There's no place to hide in the basement of the First Korean Full Gospel Church.

"I feel so sorry for you. Poor, poor boy. Poor, poor Ok. What are you going to do? My heart, my heart," she says, slapping her chest with her right hand, which is shackled with golden rings suffocating her plump fingers. "My heart aches for you and your mother," she says, and pounds my back with a force that would dislodge a rock from my throat.

I bow my head and wait for her to move on to the group of women in the middle of the room, huddled around my mother like burrowing wasps, buzzing loud prayers. They moan and babble because the Holy Spirit has a hold of them. I wish the Holy Spirit would get a hold of me so I could wail my sadness too.

As soon as Fish Brows leaves, another woman rushes to me. She squats down at my feet so she can meet my lowered head. She puts her hand on my shoulder, looks up into my eyes, and tells me my father is in heaven, smiling down on me. See him? The woman bids me to be good and strong for my mother and have faith in God's will, because I'm the man of the house now. God works in mysterious ways.

I nod like a robot. She stands and pulls me in to her, pressing my cheek against her stomach. I hear her heart beat, her insides gurgle, and her stomach growl. She opens her purse, digs out her wallet, pulls out bills, stuffs the money into the pockets of my borrowed suit jacket two sizes too big, and tells me to take good care of my mother. What does this mean? Isn't she supposed to take care of me? I politely say thank you.

As Moneybags leaves, another woman walks toward me. She carries a plate of food. She's short and round and looks plenty hungry. I brace myself for baptism by spit and bits of food. The plate is piled high with rice, fried dumplings, grilled short ribs, fried chicken wings, kimchi, bean cakes, potato salad, and japchae noodles. The woman looks down at me, smiles like we know each other, and puts her plate of food on my lap. It smells good. She tells me to eat, eat up, even if I'm not hungry, even if I don't feel like it, because I'm going to need all the strength and energy to grow through this very hard thing that's happened to me. It's not normal, she says. It's all wrong. What a senseless mess. Makes you want to kick some idiot's butt, she says, shaking her head and exhaling, "Aigo. Aigo." I take a bite of rice. It's warm and soft and sticky, and tears start to form in my eyes, and soon my food is being sauced with snot. The woman hands me a napkin, and I thank her. I wipe my face, thinking how much I need my father to come back to life.

Excerpted from I'm Ok by Patti Kim
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

An Asian/Pacific American Literature Award Honor Book

Ok Lee is determined to find the perfect get-rich-quick scheme in this funny, uplifting novel that bestselling author Gene Luen Yang called “So funny and heartfelt.”

Ok Lee knows it’s his responsibility to help pay the bills. With his father gone and his mother working three jobs and still barely making ends meet, there’s really no other choice. If only he could win the cash prize at the school talent contest! But he can’t sing or dance, and has no magic up his sleeves, so he tries the next best thing: a hair braiding business.

It’s too bad the girls at school can’t pay him much, and he’s being befriended against his will by Mickey McDonald, the unusual girl with a larger-than-life personality. Who needs friends? They’d only distract from his mission, and Ok believes life is better on his own. Then there’s Asa Banks, the most popular boy in their grade, who’s got it out for Ok.

But when the pushy deacon at their Korean church starts wooing Ok’s mom, it’s the last straw. Ok has to come up with an exit strategy—fast.

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