Review of The House That Lou Built

The House That Lou Built
by Mae Respicio
Intermediate, Middle School    Lamb/Random    233 pp.
6/18    978-1-5247-1794-0    $16.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-1795-7    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-1796-4    $10.99

Lou Bulosan-Nelson dreams of building houses, and when her mother announces plans to leave San Francisco for a better-paying job in Washington State, Lou decides it’s time to build a tiny house on the lot left by her late father. With help from middle-school classmates, shop teacher Mr. Keller, and the younger generation of her tight-knit Filipino family, Lou — already a connoisseur of the local junkyard and a skilled power-tool user — dodges her mother’s disapproval and starts building. Preparations for the annual Barrio Fiesta round out her days, and Lou’s ties to her family and community play key roles in making her dreams come true while also accounting for the practical challenges her single mother deals with. Lou is a thoroughly engaging narrator, passionate about her interests (“every new thirteen-year-old girl needs…a circular saw”) and deeply committed to friends and family. Filipino American culture is a crucial part of her world, and Respicio incorporates it seamlessly into the story, making it clear that her protagonist’s community is a hybrid and evolving one (Lou’s grandmother: “When I was a girl my wish was to get far away from the bahay kubo. I wanted to give my family more. And now look at you, bringing the one-room house back into style”) — and that her contributions to it are essential ones.

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.

Sarah Rettger
Sarah Rettger is an independent bookseller in Boston.

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