Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein

Spring 2010 Fiction
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Libby Schmais
ISBN: 9780385737562
Hardcover Price: $16.99

"This year," 15-year-old Lotus Lowenstein declares, "I will become an existentialist, go to France, and fall in love." Lotus is a devout Francophile living with her Jewish family in Brooklyn. Her handbooks are Simone de Beauvior's "The Second Sex", Jean-Paul Sartre's "Nausea" and Miereille Guiliano's "French Women Don't Get Fat".

Like any teenager with a fabulous plan, however, Lotus has obstacles; her family, for one. Her unemployed playwright father is having an existential crisis of his own, her brother's an attention-stealing chess wiz, and her well-meaning mother is, among other things, a little checked out. Lotus is forced to settle for a French Club trip to Montreal.

The story is loaded with cultural references, both pop and intellectual (the "pillow book" of the title is a reference to Sei Shonagon's famous late 900's diary as lady-in-waiting to a Japanese Empress) and author Libby Schmais blends them skillfully. The dialogue is hip, the narrative is saucy and Schmais makes each of her characters ride out all of the bumps.

Lotus' own sardonic observations deserve equal renown. She's an engaging narrator -- equal parts chic and naïve, magnificent and flawed. Lotus has moxy and she's loveable because though her life rarely goes as she plans, she keeps making lemonade.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2010 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

Look for this product at:
Random House Children's Books/Delacorte Press

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