Tiny House, Big Family

A determined young girl stars in my latest scout, The House that Lou Built, a debut novel by Mae Respieto. Respieto’s Filipino culture and childhood spent near San Francisco play strongly in her story of Lou, a thirteen-year-old girl living, along with her mother, in her grandmother’s house in San Francisco. Numerous members of Lou’s Filipino family life nearby.  Lou, at times, loves having close cousins and aunts, but at other times, she wonders what it would be like to have more autonomy and be able to have the privacy she sees her friends enjoy. Still, Lou is kept busy planning her dream home, a tiny house she longs to build on her piece of Heaven: some lush, secluded property her grandfather left to her. Lou is laser-focused on her dream. She acquires the skills needed to build, works at a scrap yard and collects items she can use in building and saves money to accomplish her tiny house goal.

Lou’s world is turned upside down when her mother gets offered a job in Seattle and intends to accept. Doubling down on her dream, Lou accelerates her pace of building, hoping the tiny house will change mom’s mind. Complications arise and Lou makes choices that result in deceptions to mom and other family. As the stakes get higher, Lou learns that mom can’t pay the taxes on the property and they will likely lose it. Lou refuses to relent, but it will take the assistance of family to finally perservere.

In a satisfying ending, Lou realizes her dream with the help of family and mom discovers that her dreams are better realized with family in her corner, as well.

FYI: I like to be transparent about content, so there are no surprises and adults have the chance to discuss subject matter.  First, Lou develops a crush and get her first brief kiss.Second, her teacher, mentor and helper is a gay character, although there is little detail other than he lives with his partner.

What I like about this book:

Lou is a great role model. She is comfortable being a young teen who loves tiny houses, building with wood, and embracing her culture by being in a Filipino dance troup. She is independent, strong-willed and dedicated to her goals.

There is a great deal of Filipino culture woven into the tale, from beliefs to cooking to dance, which lends the story more authenticity and gives depth to the characters and their relationships.

Written by Mae Respieto

Copyright 2018

Accelerated Reader Level: No test yet written. Approximate reading level is 5.0

Click on book cover to order through Amazon:              

Choices for Change

Sometimes, writing really is a form of art. When I first scouted out the book, Garvey’s Choice, I thought it sounded like a good free-verse story. But I was wrong. It isn’t a no-rules format at all.  Nikki Grimes, the author, wrote the entire story following a Japanese form of poetry called Tanka.  Written in 5-line stanzas, following a five, seven, five, seven, seven pattern of syllables in each line, Tanka is at once a poem and a vehicle to tell Garvey’s story.  To follow a strict pattern, while choosing words that capture the characters and their interactions, is amazing!

The story is short, impactful and touching.

Garvey is a boy who not only loves rhythm and music, but has a soulful singing voice, too. He’s sure his talents would be lost on his father though, who expects Garvey to play football.  As a result, Garvey decides to hide his musical ability and elects to overeat to stuff down his unhappiness. Being taunted at school for his weight only makes matters worse  Yet, Joe, his devoted friend, shores Garvey up and encourages him to try out for choir. With the pressures of football from dad, the unkind remarks from classmates and the insensitive teasing of his own family, Garvey doesn’t know if he has the strength to handle the possible repercussions if he makes the choice to share his voice.

The story is one of deep pain, intense longing and, ultimately,  Garvey’s’ discovery that mustering the courage to make a choice can change his entire world.

By Nikki Grimes

Accelerated Reader Level: 3.6, but with the social issues and self-esteem struggles of Garvey, higher readers should not pass this one up.

Copyright 2016

Click on the cover to order through Amazon: