Hadilaksono, Caroline. Surprise! Arthur A Levine Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-13919-8. Unpaged. Ages 4-10. P7Q8.
A story about longtime friends, Bear, Raccoon, and Squirrel who find themselves bored and decide to add some excitement by seeking new friends…. which isn’t always easy. Finally, the opportunity knocks when city folks arrive for a visit. The three friends devise a plan to convince the visitors to stay. Raccoon delights in the splendid foods that they will share by upending the guests’ cooler and digging in; squirrel joins in by providing entertainment, of course. Bear adds decorations by plastering his massive footprints in hues formed with mixing ketchup and mustard. “SURPRISE!” Things did go as planned; their guests were perfectly shocked. This is where the effect does not go as planned; the new friends flee with the animals crying, “Don’t leave!”
Verdict: The digital illustrations capture the beauty of friendship and the comic-like speech bubbles add to the silliness and drama.
May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.
Donoghue, Emma. The Lotterys More or Less. Illus. by Caroline Hadilaksono. Arthur A. Levine, 2018. $17.99. 285p. ISBN 978-1-338-20753-8. Ages 9-12. P7Q8
The family of 11 plus a grouchy grandfather that includes a gay couple and a lesbian couple, first seen in The Lotterys Plus One, has returned in a Christmas adventure when the loss of electricity, first for their neighbors and then for themselves, mixes with the need to care for a visitor from Brazil who damaged his eye while sledding behind a car. In this book about a diverse group, two are missing–one of the fathers and the older son are trying to trying to return from a visit to India in the midst of the storm.
Verdict: Since the first book in the series, Donoghue has found a voice and direction, and the author spends less time working with the introduction of the characters. With less wordplay, the narration moves more smoothly, and the nine-year-old narrator shows how a disaster can result in the building of a community.
February 2019 review by Nel Ward.
Donoghue, Emma. The Lotterys Plus One. Illus. by Caroline Hadilaksono. Arthur A. Levine, 2017. 305p. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-92582-2. Ages 8-12. P6Q5
This family of eleven has almost every gender and issue—two lesbian moms, two gay dads, a developmentally-delayed toddler, a genderfluid four-year-old, a biracial Filipina-German, five other home-schooled children, and a variety of pets—in a 32-room Toronto mansion that was purchased with income from a lottery. Their relationship is disturbed when the Scottish father of one of the dads, a curmudgeonly bigoted man with early signs of dementia, moves in with him against his will, and Sumac not only has to give up her room for him but also make sure that he stays safe by being his personal guide.
Verdict: The family issues are universal, but the attempt to be clever, use wordplay, and stress the differences sometimes slows down the plot. Lotterys has all the ingredients of a good book by an author of quality adult books, but it still falls flat—sometimes slow almost wooden in places. Authors should keep to what they do best.
March 2017 review by Nel Ward.