The House That Lou Built
Lucinda - better known as Lou - loves tools, construction, and building things. In that way, she's just like her father, who died when she was very young. He left her some land, and Lou decides to build one of those tiny houses on it - she knows she can do it. But when her mother announces they will be moving away from their close-knit Filipino family in San Francisco for a better job opportunity, Lou worries she will lose everything that's most important to her.
This is a character rarely seen in fiction for this age group. Not only is Lou a female who is interested in construction projects, but she is a Filipino-American protagonist. Those things alone are refreshing to encounter, and Lou's persistence and problem-solving qualities reinforce good messages about strength, even though she also needs to examine how she treats others from time to time.
Supporting characters are less well-rounded, but the extended family dynamics are good to see, as they represent many readers and are not commonly depicted in middle grade fiction. The reflection about ways that a friend's family is different - no rice at breakfast, for example - and the occasional envy of each other's lives over these differences - is age-appropriate, relatable, and useful for recognizing differences without valuing one over another.
There are a lot of food descriptions and a fair amount of details about San Francisco worked into the story. The festival, and Lou's participation in the dance at this event, seem more about building the details of her world to show traditions and her interest in something other than construction than integral to the plot. I wanted more details about Lou's work on her dream project and less commentary about how much she wanted to do it. Still, many readers will connect to her desire to pursue an interest that a parent doesn't completely understand, or cannot financially support. This book is likely to be a favorite with a few, and a perfectly enjoyable read for many others.
"I wish I could just keep building and not have to worry about this. I stare at my new screen saver - a picture of me in front of that tiny house I visited. If only it were my house."
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