Title: Lolo’s Light
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 232
Emotional response is a highly individual and funny thing. I didn’t find myself as moved by this book as I thought I might be, despite the tearjerker premise. I’m sure that won’t be true for many readers, and although there was something missing that prevented the narrative from really ‘clicking’ with me it was a very solid read with a premise I’ve never encountered before in middle grade fiction. I’m sure situations like the one in Lolo’s Light have happened many times but I’ve never read a book about that particular kind of trauma. I hope it reaches the hands of someone who can be helped by it’s message.
Millie is the middle child of divorced parents. She wants to be a comedienne and performs sketches for her family and friends. One day Millie is asked to babysit Lolo, the ‘cutest baby in the world,’ for the first time. She’s absolutely thrilled, before only her older sister Tess had been given the responsibility of looking after Lolo. She’s just supposed to hang out at Lolo’s parents’ house and check on the baby every so often.
Tragically, Lolo dies of SIDS in her sleep and her parents discover her body the next morning. Millie is devastated and even though it’s not her fault she feels responsible for Lolo’s death. She feels like she should have done something to prevent it from happening. Lolo’s parents play a pretty small role, it focuses mainly on Millie’s grief. Shortly after the death Millie is paired up with several other kids (including her best friend, Sam) in science class to raise chicken eggs.
Reliving her previous ‘failure’ to care for another living being, she becomes really OCD about the project and drives her partners crazy. She also begins to see a strange light emanating from Lolo’s window, which brings her a certain degree of hope, however fleeting. I found the imagery of the ‘light’ a little bit sentimental and obvious but it’s a kid’s book– younger readers might feel differently. Millie is a likable character and her frustration as a middle child with a dismissive older sister and an annoying younger sister was thoroughly believable.
The writing was good and felt a little more literary than most middle grade novels (while still being thoroughly readable for middle graders.) So… was it good? Yes, it was, even though I don’t think it will stick with me as much as some MG books. It took me a moment to recall the plot details a week or so after finishing it, so I wouldn’t say it had the biggest amount of memorability. But it’s a tender story about growing up and healing from a life-shattering event, and I loved how supportive (most) of Millie’s family and friends were. They definitely had their moments where they weren’t so great but ultimately, they came through for her.