Good news Elflings! I am très heureuse to be a stop on Libby Schmais’s Tourapalooza in celebration of her first YA novel, The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein. If you know a teen who would love nothing more than a ticket to Paris this holiday season, then I’m thinking The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein would be a much more affordable and entirely pleasing option for said teen reader. Libby is also sharing her perfect day in Paris, as well as Lotus’s dream day in the French capital! As a lovely bonus, at the end of the post, you will find out how to enter to win an autographed copy of Libby’s book. Let’s get started with a bit about the book.
Lotus Lowenstein dreams of going to Paris and becoming an existentialist. Unfortunately, she is instead stuck in Park Slope Brooklyn, far from the world of croissants, cafés, and romance, with her particularly kooky family. She writes in her journal, her pillow book, about all things français and about her very complicated life. In spite of her daily efforts to celebrate French language and culture, Lotus feels like her Paris dream is very far away. She decides to create a French club in her high school, hoping that she might be able to organize a trip to the City of Light. The first meeting of the club brings out only three members: Lotus, her best friend Joni, and Sean, an adorable, smart wannabe existentialist. This launches Lotus’s first sort-of love affair, and she discovers that love, like any big dream, is a lot more complicated than she thought. Will there be heartbreak? Will Lotus discover the best poutine when the French club makes its first official trip to Montréal? Will she ever make it to Paris? You’ll have to read Lotus’s pillow book to find out.
Here’s the lovely trailer, which captures the spirit of the book perfectly (not always the case with trailers, I find):
Diary style writing is not easy to pull off. You’ve got to have a rock-solid sense of the character’s voice in order to make it work and to keep it engaging for the reader. Schmais definitely achieves this in her first YA novel. Lotus is often hilarious, and while she is precocious in her interests and observations about people and the world, her attitude and concerns are quite true to a typical teenager’s way of seeing things. There were many very funny moments in this book. For example:
I woke up late, ate two croissants, and had a café au lait. Read a few pages of Nausea, by Jean-Paul Sartre, and started to feel a little nauseated myself. I think it was because I totally related to the way JP felt about everything. Like how he looked at something and couldn’t even remember what it is or why it is. That’s how I feel. I mean, what’s the point? I’ll never have enough money to go to France. I’ll never fall in love. It’s just one endless day after the other.
I thought that Lotus was a really interesting girl, the kind of sassy character who stays with you and makes you wonder what she might be up to a few years down the road. She’s smart, irrepressible, and she has big dreams. I think a lot of teens will relate to her energy and vision.
I must address the cupcakes mentioned in passing in the trailer. An author who can come up with the idea for “HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE” cupcakes, is automatically working at a whole different level of funny, and deserves attention, I think. Come on. That is genius funny. Makes me smile just thinking about it.