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.
Libby has kindly stopped by to share how she and Lotus would each spend one perfect day in Paris. Welcome Libby! So, what would a perfect Parisian day look like for you, and for Lotus?
I think both Lotus and I would sleep late and then go to a café and drink enormous amounts of café au lait and eat pain au chocolat.
Then, I would probably spend the rest of the morning wandering around and doing a little shopping, perhaps around Rue Mouffetard in the cinquième, where there’s some really cute little shops and a street market. For lunch, I’d have a picnic of baguette and some delicious fromage on Île St Louis, in the shadow of Notre Dame. And later, afternoon tea at the very elegant Mariage Frères in the Marais district. Then I would walk off my tea and pastries on the Promenade Plantée, this cool elevated park near the Bastille.
For her perfect day, Lotus would definitely have to go to Les Deux Magots, where Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir spent their days writing and hanging out. After soaking up that hallowed atmosphere along with some delicious French food, and jotting down a few pensées of her own, she would make a pilgrimage to the Père Lachaise cemetery where Sartre and DeBeauvoir are buried side by side and perhaps shed a few tears. Then, to cheer herself up, she would go shopping at Les Galleries Lafayette department store and pick up some cool French outfits. She might also try to hit some couture salons like Chanel or Christian La Croix (because she believes she can save his bankrupt fashion house) and apply for a job as an apprentice. And if there was time, she’d probably also hit some vintage stores for some interesting accessories.
At night, I think both Lotus and I would each eat a delicious dinner in some tiny neighborhood restaurant and then go see a movie at a small art house in the Latin Quarter. Afterwards, I think we’d both take a leisurely walk on the Seine and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle (which it does for five minutes at the beginning of every hour).
Doesn’t that sound divine? In my view, any day in Paris is bound to be close to perfect. Thanks for sharing your dreamy jour à Paris Libby! Like Lotus and Libby, I too am Paris-crazy. Here’s what I would do for one day in The City of Light (very food-centered, you will note):
Wake up. Head straight to Kayser, one of my favourite bakeries in Paris. Buy one of their gigantic financiers and wander up to the Jardin Luxembourg, the largest public park in Paris. I’d pull up a chair in front of the palace and feed the birds and stare at the glamorous Parisians walking by. Then I’d make my way to Notre Dame and head up to the top for the best view of the rooftops of Paris I’ve ever seen. After my climb, an ice cream would be essential. The best? Bertillon on the Ile St-Louis. I’d wander through the Marais, checking out the cute shops. I’d spend the afternoon at Le Centre Georges Pompidou, enjoying the high-tech architecture and the astounding collection of modern art. A quick nap in my hotel and I’d be back out in the city, catching a bite at one of my favourite bistros, Le Nemrod. Then I’d go to the Seine, so pretty at night, and stare at the buildings by moonlight from le pont Notre Dame. (*Sigh*) I want to be back in Paris.
Thanks for bringing back memories Libby!
Now for the tour contest. Libby will explain how to enter to win a snazzy prize:
Today’s French Word du Jour is sympa (which means “nice”). If you collect all the French words du jour on the Blog Tourapalooza, you can enter a contest to win fabulous prizes (a $25 Sephora gift card and a personally autographed Pillow Book!). Once you’ve visited all the blog tour stops and collected all the words, email the complete list of words to email@example.com with the subject line “French Word du Jour Contest.” All e-mail entries must be received by midnight (EST) on December 21, 2009. The winner will be selected at random on December 22, 2009. Be sure to include your name, e-mail address, and daytime phone number with your entry (If you’re under age 13, give your parent’s contact info). The complete My-Life-Is-Merde-but-Have-a-Bonnes-Fêtes-Anyway Blog Tourapalooza schedule can be found at lotuslowenstein.com. Our next tour stop is Chick Lit Teens on December 17. See you on the road, mes amis!
The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein is published by Delacorte.