Raising Kids

Say ‘aloha’ to ‘Lulu in Honolulu’

Your daughter tries to be helpful. She keeps her room clean, cooks super-easy meals, and keeps her little brother quiet.

But sometimes her well-meaning plans backfire, such as in the new book “Lulu in Honolulu” by Elisabeth Wolf, when Lulu Harrison’s parents really wish they’d left her in Los Angeles!

It was supposed to be the family vacation of a lifetime, with a little work on the side: beautiful Fiona Harrison was directing a new film on location in Honolulu, and her handsome husband, Linc, was the star. They brought along 16-year-old, bikini-obsessed Alexis, who’d been a model once; and 11-year-old Lulu, who had frizzy hair, freckles, and a total inability to hula.

That’s not good when you’re spending the summer in Hawaii.

But it was okay. Lulu, “the world’s most freckled fish out of water,” was perfectly happy to wear SPF-50 clothing, dorky shoes, and thick sunscreen while she attended Ohana Day Camp. The camp was where she met her best friend, Noelani, who was the finest hula dancer Lulu had ever seen, but who seriously lacked “koa” (bravery).

Both of Lulu’s parents were overworked, and the film was over budget, which meant that they didn’t have any free time. Lulu tried to help with a few schemes that seemed like great ideas, but she just made things worse every time. Then Fiona got fired, and she threatened to send Lulu back to Los Angeles. Alexis was mad, too. Was there any way to get her “ohana” (family) to forgive her?

I struggled for the better part of an evening to read “Lulu in Honolulu,” and I wasn’t sure why. The story’s basically good; young girls will get a kick out of Lulu’s well-meaning personality, and her adventures were fun.

Finally, I realized what I really didn’t like about this book.

First, its formatting makes it seem slow. Author Elisabeth Wolf presents this tale as though it were a movie script, which means it’s filled with directions and asides that don’t play well. Kids might like the hook for awhile, but I didn’t.

I also greatly disliked Lulu’s too-busy-for-her, rich-and-famous, gorgeous-and-they-know-it parents. On the first page, this 11-year-old character compared herself to them, and came up woefully short. That made me sad.

I’m always a big know-your-audience-advocate, and that goes doubly for this book. It’s not totally horrid. It’s worth a try, but keep in mind: your 8-to-10-year-old might love “Lulu in Honolulu,” or she might not even want it around.

“Lulu in Honolulu,” by Elisabeth Wolf [280 pages, 2014, $6.99].

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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