Book Review: Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream by Polly Farquhar
“Not since Ramona Quimby has a character marched right out of a book with so much bravado, humor, and heart.”—Barbara O’Connor, New York Times bestselling author of Wish
A headstrong girl’s quest to steal back her family’s dog goes awry in this humorous and compassionate novel.
Lolo is stuck in summer school with a teacher who is out to get her while her family is still reeling from her grandfather’s death. Even his dog is mourning, howling outside all night and every night. Finally, lovable old Hank is sent to a farm across the lake that takes foster dogs.
And it’s all Lolo’s fault.
Lolo knows she has to get Hank back. In a tippy canoe, Lolo crosses the almost-dried-out lake to steal her dog back. But she runs into Noah, a student in her summer school class and Hank’s new owner—and he loves Hank as much as she does.
As Lolo’s plan unravels and her uneasy alliance with Noah grows into a friendship, the question of what’s best for Hank becomes muddier. Can Lolo manage to do the right thing—for once?
Itch author Polly Farquhar returns to Ohio with a tale of a big-hearted girl searching for answers to tough questions in all the wrong places. Fans of Gary Schmidt will love Farquhar’s blend of honesty, humor, and heart.
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
I’m usually more timely in my book reviews. This book came out in late April, which, sure, isn’t that long ago, but I’m usually reading June books in June. Book mail came fast and furious all spring and my TBR pile grew into Mount TBR, so I’m still making my way through books from the past few months that I’d wanted to check out.
Here’s what you immediately need to know: THE DOG IN THIS STORY WILL BE OKAY. The dog will make you sad, the dog will make you worry, but it will all be okay. That’s not a spoiler, but a reassurance, especially for those of us who either can’t handle pet death in books (hi, it’s me!) or will be recommending this to child readers who also may not be able to handle pet death.
I was immediately drawn into Lolo’s story. Her narrative voice is amazing—honest, a little tough, a little vulnerable—and her entire approach to life (a combination that feels like “Go ahead, I dare you” and “Fine, I’ll just do it myself”) just delighted me. The setting is also what immediately engaged me. Lolo’s town is failing, thanks to the lake having to be drained. It’s hot, it’s buggy, it’s muddy and mucky, and it feels nearly abandoned. It’s perfect for a summer adventure.
The story isn’t just about Lolo trying to get her grandpa’s dog back. It’s about families, grief, loss, friendship, healing, and moving on. It’s about learning what’s best for someone (or for somedog), knowing what to let go of, and making hard choices. It’s also a story about summer school, which we don’t see a lot of in fiction and which PLENTY of kids sit through, for all kinds of reasons. I ended up loving Mrs. Cryer, the teacher, who is firm but supportive, strict but willing to let the kids work in ways that best suit them, and someone who sees Lolo for the complicated, sometimes exasperating, good-hearted kid that she is. A moving read that’s as full of adventure and gentle humor as it is full of heart.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 04/25/2023
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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