Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Tender-hearted and observant, 9-year old Sumac loves life in “Camelottery”, the huge Victorian home she shares with her two mothers, who are Native American and Jamaican, two fathers, from India and the Yukon, and six adopted siblings, all named for trees. While the Lottery family may be unlike any other, at its heart this novel touches on universal themes common to most families: love, acceptance, and connections between generations. One of Sumac’s grandfathers, Iain, is beginning to suffer from dementia so he comes to live with the Lotterys. Iain’s conservative outlook clashes with the Lotterys’ free-spirited lifestyle, and his frustration over losing his independence further complicates matters. As the book progresses, Sumac’s siblings’ personalities become more distinct and they each ultimately connect with Iain in a different way. Also, father and son begin to resolve their long estrangement over the son’s choice of an alternative lifestyle. This story is at its strongest when it focuses on the interpersonal relationships and all their accompanying emotions. Sumac is a likable and sympathetic main character, even when she makes some questionable choices.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Reading this book felt a lot like a visit to the Lottery home might feel: friendly, but somewhat confusing and frenetic. It was initially difficult to sort out the characters and their personalities, so this might prove challenging for young readers. Also, the sheer number of issues addressed here made this novel overwhelming at times.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read Alikes? Recommend to readers who are looking for novels about big and/or alternative families. You could also recommend The Family Fletcher books by Dana Alison Levy, Best Friend Next Door by Carolyn Mackler, Absolutely, Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick and The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall.
Who should buy this book? Public libraries and school libraries, especially those looking for more diversity in their collections
Where would you shelve it ? Middle-grade fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Perhaps.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA
Date of review: February 7, 2017